New research by Wake Forest University economist Mark Curtis finds that jobs in the renewable energy sector have tripled in the last 15 years, a figure that could grow with the recent passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act.
Curtis says the research found renewable energy jobs have a pay premium of about 20 percent over similar jobs in the fossil fuel industry. And he says that much of the job growth has occurred in places threatened with losses in the carbon fuel-based workplace.
“Renewable energy jobs tend to be disproportionately located in regions of the country that have high numbers of fossil fuel jobs,” he says. “This suggests that as we transition away from fossil fuel jobs and towards renewable jobs, that there's the potential for workers to transition from the fossil fuel industry to renewable jobs, and that the communities that rely on fossil fuel for a large chunk of their economy might be able to transition...to a renewable economy.”
Solar and wind energy jobs could increase in the next decades with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
That measure is primarily focused on U.S. climate policy and puts an emphasis on renewables. Curtis says North Carolina could benefit.
“A lot of North Carolina has already done a good job of investing in solar, investing in wind,” he says. “And I think that there is the potential to see job growth in rural areas in North Carolina that can invest in industrial solar facilities and wind turbines.”
Curtis does offer some caveats about those “green” jobs. He says right now renewables are in a relatively early stage that needs workers. It's unclear how many of the jobs will be permanent.
He also says that the renewable energy sector growth is unlikely to offset the overall manufacturing job losses that have been trending for several years now.