Evergreen Explains: Why Passing Biden’s Clean Electricity Standard Will Create Millions of Jobs

Moving America’s power grid to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035 is not only our best tool to fight the climate crisis — it’s also a powerful engine for economic growth that would create millions of new good jobs.

The Clean Electricity Standard (CES) proposed in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan (AJP) could prove to be one of his administration’s most impactful policies. Moving America’s power grid to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035 is not only our best tool to fight the climate crisis — it’s also a powerful engine for economic growth that would create millions of new good jobs.

In order to reach 100% clean power by 2035, we’ll have to rapidly ramp up renewable power generation and upgrade America’s aging transmission infrastructure. These industries are already growing quickly, and implementing a Clean Electricity Standard will supercharge them, creating an explosion of new jobs. Evergreen and Data for Progress’s recent Roadmap to 100% Clean Electricity by 2035 estimates that a federal CES could create up to 2.2 million jobs by the 2030s.

This approach is proven. States that have passed ambitious renewable portfolio standards (standards that mandate increased energy generation from renewable sources) have seen tens of thousands of jobs created and billions more in investments. And even states with more moderate targets were able to unlock considerable economic benefits.

Translating the success of these state-level policies to the federal level can create millions of good jobs building a 100% clean energy economy, with downstream effects powering growth across many different sectors. And by pairing clean energy investments with strong labor standards, President Biden’s CES will help power our economic recovery and put millions of Americans to work.

How Clean Electricity Standards Create Jobs — A Proven Track Record in the States

Clean and renewable electricity standards have proven to drive job creation across the country. For instance, seven states that passed particularly bold renewable portfolio standards have seen huge economic growth. Strong clean energy targets in Hawaii, California, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Connecticut and Oregon helped create more than 72,000 jobs and over $13 billion invested in solar installations in those states 2014 alone.

States with clean energy standards consistently rank highest in the number of renewable energy jobs. As of 2017, 8 of the top 10 states for wind jobs and 9 of the top 10 for solar jobs had implemented a renewable portfolio standard.

State-level clean energy standards demonstrate the power of a clean electricity standard to mobilize workers to build new clean energy generation. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that “[r]oughly half of all growth in U.S. renewable electricity (RE) generation and capacity since 2000 is associated with state RPS requirements… [W]ithin particular regions — namely, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic — RPS policies have remained a dominant driver for RE growth.”

  • Arizona’s modest renewable portfolio standard was able to generate billions of dollars in new investments and thousands of new jobs. A progress report on Arizona’s 15%-by-2025 RPS recorded that, as of 2020, “solar industry investment totaled $11.6 billion in Arizona — more than $735 million was invested in 2018 alone. There are 571 solar companies operating in the state, of which eight are manufacturers and 268 are installers or developers. The solar industry is also a major source of employment in the state, with more than 7,500 jobs reported in 2018.” The Arizona Corporation Commission is close to finalizing a 100% Clean Electricity Standard, which would multiply these local economic benefits.
  • California’s renewable portfolio standard drove $20 billion in investments and helped create more than 100,000 jobs. Over a seven-year period, California’s 33% by 2020 standard mobilized $20 billion in utility-scale renewable energy investments. A 2015 analysis found that from 2003–2014, around 52,000 direct jobs were created in construction for renewable energy facilities. Including the downstream “induced jobs” created by these massive investments, California’s standard helped create an estimated 130,000 jobs. In 2016, California built upon this leadership by passing a 100% Clean Electricity Standard.
  • Michigan’s renewable portfolio standard created thousands of jobs in the renewable energy industry. The state’s number of renewable energy jobs grew from 6,775 in 2005 to 19,242 in 2020. Michigan implemented two increasingly ambitious portfolio standards in that time. Following the implementation of the first RPS, a state commission report found that “the renewable energy sector had shown the largest growth rate over the previous three years compared with the other green economy industries.”
  • Maine’s renewable portfolio standard is an engine for job growth. Maine became the sixth state to commit to 100% clean electricity with legislation passed in 2019. A November 2020 report from the Maine Governor’s Energy Office related that “[t]he procurement to support the state’s ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard supported 17 projects around the state, which will create hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of new investment. […] Of the [state’s] nearly 18,000 total energy sector employees, around 14,000 would fall within the clean energy sector, including transmission, distribution and storage, as well as energy efficiency.” A February 2021 report from that same office predicts that the growth in clean energy jobs will continue apace, saying that “[t]he prior and current rounds of [renewable energy] procurement are expected to add more jobs to the state as well.”
  • North Carolina’s renewable energy standard and energy efficiency portfolio standard “has been a driving force behind” the state’s clean energy industry. A 2016 article reports that North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) “has been a driving force behind NC’s $7 billion clean energy industry and its 26,000+ jobs.” That sector has grown at an astronomical pace in recent years; as of 2020, the 88,000 North Carolinians worked in energy efficiency alone, and another 8,300 worked in the solar, wind, and hydroelectric industries. The state is also second only to California in its solar generation capacity, with almost 4,700 megawatts installed at the end of 2019.
  • Virginia’s new 100% clean electricity standard is projected to grow the state’s solar jobs by a factor of 7. Virginia was home to 3,890 solar industry jobs in 2018. Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University estimated that the initial spending for new solar generation in compliance with the states new 100% Clean Electricity Standard would increase the industry’s number of directly supported jobs to more than 29,000. Including indirect and induced jobs, the report found that the new investments would ultimately create 47,000 new jobs.

Now, we have the opportunity to build on these state level successes by implementing an ambitious CES at the federal level. If passed, a federal CES will be a defining climate policy for Joe Biden’s presidency and a cornerstone of America’s clean energy economic recovery.

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