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Retraining Investment for U.S. Transition from Coal to Solar Photovoltaic Employment

Edward P. Louie and Joshua M. Pearce - Energy Economics, 2016

Although coal remains the largest source of electricity in the U.S., a combination of factors is driving a decrease in profitability and employment in the coal-sector. Meanwhile, the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry is growing rapidly in the U.S. and generating many jobs that represent employment opportunities for laid off coal workers. In order to determine the viability of a smooth transition from coal to PV-related employment, this paper provides an analysis of the cost to retrain current coal workers for solar photovoltaic industry employment in the U.S. The current coal industry positions are determined, the skill set evaluated and the salaries tabulated. For each type of coal position, the closest equivalent PV position is determined and then the re-training time and investment are quantified. These values are applied on a state-by-state basis for coal producing states employing the bulk of coal workers as a function of time using a reverse seniority retirement program for the current American fleet of coal-powered plants. The results show that a relatively minor investment in retraining would allow the vast majority of coal workers to switch to PV-related positions even in the event of the elimination of the coal industry.

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