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'Only the Beginning': Democrats' IRA Set to Create 100,000+ US Green Jobs

By Brett Wilkins - Common Dreams, February 6, 2023

A leading climate action group on Monday published a report revealing that the 94 clean energy projects announced since U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law last August are set to create more than 100,000 green jobs.

Climate Power—which published the report as part of a new six-figure national ad campaign touting the growing green economy—said that since the IRA became law without any Republican support last year, "companies are racing forward with massive investments to build our clean energy future."

"New manufacturing in wind, solar, batteries, and electric vehicles—along with storage projects across the country—mean new, good-paying jobs for hard-working Americans," the group continued. "In the six months since the landmark climate and clean energy investments became law, clean energy companies have announced more than 100,000 new clean energy jobs for electricians, mechanics, construction workers, technicians, support staff, and many others."

"As the largest U.S. investment in clean energy and climate in history, this national clean energy plan will continue to reshape and recharge our economy for many decades to come," Climate Power added.

While green groups have generally praised the IRA's historic $369 billion investment in renewable energy production and innovation, activists have condemned provisions including fossil fuel tax credits and mandatory lease sales on public lands and at sea.

The 94 new clean energy projects in the Climate Power report—which are spread across 31 states and have a combined investment value of $89.5 billion—include:

Forty new battery manufacturing sites in places like Van Buren Township, Michigan; Tucson, Arizona; and Florence County, South Carolina. So far, 22 companies have announced plans for new or expanded electric vehicle manufacturing in Pryor, Oklahoma; Montgomery, Alabama; Highland Park, Michigan—and more. A further 24 companies shared plans to expand wind and solar manufacturing in cities including Pueblo, Colorado; Perrysburg, Ohio; and Georgetown, Texas. The majority of the projects are in seven states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

"Thanks to President Biden's affordable clean energy plan, businesses are investing in manufacturing like never before, and planning to create good-paying jobs in every corner of the country," Climate Power executive director Lori Lodes said in a statement.

"This is only the beginning—we're months after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and we're already at the precipice of a renewed manufacturing, made-in-America boom that will create opportunities for millions of Americans, all while reducing toxic emissions that harm the health and wellbeing of our communities," Lodes added.

Last month, the International Energy Agency said in a report that "the world is at the dawn of a new industrial age—the age of clean energy technology manufacturing," and that green manufacturing jobs will more than double by the end of the decade if countries worldwide live up to their climate and energy pledges—a huge "if" given that global emissions remain at record levels.

Read the report (Link).

In Maine, coalition works to make sure organized labor has role in offshore wind

By Sarah Shemkus - Energy News, February 1, 2023

A group of environmental and labor organizations want a state offshore wind advisory committee in its final plan to include more specific language recommending project labor and labor peace agreements.

As Maine comes close to finalizing its roadmap for the development of offshore wind, a coalition of labor and environmental groups is asking the state to strengthen its commitment to supporting union jobs in the burgeoning industry. 

A group of 12 environmental and labor organizations has sent a letter to the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap Advisory Committee asking that the final plan, expected by early February, incorporate explicit language recommending the use of project labor agreements and labor peace agreements as the offshore wind sector develops in Maine. Many of the same advocates are supporting a bill, announced by Democratic state Sen. Mark Lawrence last month, that would require union labor agreements on offshore wind projects. 

“Organized labor needs to be a crucial part of this investment,” said Kelt Wilska, energy justice manager for Maine Conservation Voters. “And we need to make sure working families, both coastal and inland, benefit from this.”

As states from New England down to North Carolina work on their own plans for implementing offshore wind projects, Maine is expected to be a major player in the growing industry. With strong, consistent winds, the Gulf of Maine is widely considered to be one of the most promising areas for offshore wind development.

Maine convened its Offshore Wind Roadmap Advisory Committee in July 2021 with the mission of creating an economic development plan for the fast-emerging industry. The panel — which includes 25 members representing state and municipal governments, private business, community and environmental nonprofits, and organized labor — released its draft plan in early December. 

The document outlines strategies for investing in infrastructure and workforce development; reducing costs and increasing resilience through renewable power; advancing Maine-based innovation; and protecting and supporting the seafood industry, coastal communities and the ocean ecosystem. Labor and environmental groups have praised much of the plan, particularly its focus on comprehensive planning, workforce and supply chain investment, and environmental monitoring and mitigation. 

Why unions are excited about these provisions hidden deep in the Inflation Reduction Act

By Kristin Toussaint - Fast Company, January 27, 2023

The Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law last summer, is the U.S.’s largest-ever investment in clean and renewable energy. But it’s also a landmark policy for labor, tying $270 billion in tax incentives (of the bill’s $369 billion clean energy investment) to labor standards that will boost working conditions for those in clean energy jobs.

Those standards are set to go into effect on January 29, and labor advocates say it’s a historic opportunity to create a tremendous number of union jobs in the clean energy economy.

The IRA has tax credits that create financial incentives not only for developers to embark on more clean energy projects but also for those projects to meet high labor standards. Companies can get a 30% tax credit on their qualifying projects—from offshore wind to solar construction to energy storage—but only if they meet certain standards. That includes paying workers a prevailing wage (the federal government sets this rate for work on public projects; states can set theirs higher) and having a certain amount of work done by those in registered apprenticeship programs. (To start, 12.5% of total labor hours must be done by apprentices; that increases to 15% in 2024.)

If clean energy developers don’t meet those standards—say, paying only minimum wage and choosing not to hire any apprentices—they get a tax credit of just 6%. “The IRA provides a substantial and impactful financial benefit for developers to pay good wages, hire apprentices, and really create a pipeline to good careers in the clean energy economy,” says Dave Hancock, director of strategic campaigns at the Climate Jobs National Resource Center, which helps unions develop labor-led climate job coalitions and works toward a “worker-centered renewable economy.”

Carbon Free Healthy Schools Teach-In

Britishvolt administration ‘potentially catastrophic’ for both the North East and UK’s automotive transition

By staff - Unite the Union, January 17, 2023

Britishvolt, which was planning to build a giga-battery factory in Northumberland, has today (Tuesday) announced that it is going into administration.

Unite national officer for the automotive sector Steve Bush said: “This is a grim day for the North East and for the just transition to the electrification of the nation’s automotive sector.

“The complete lack of a competent industrial strategy by the government to protect jobs in the UK automotive sector is becoming potentially more catastrophic by the day.

“It is extraordinary that despite the UK automotive sector being required to move to the production of electric vehicles, there are still no UK stand-alone factories making the batteries that are required. The demise of Britishvolt means there are not even any in the pipeline.

“The government’s strategy seems to be to cross their fingers and hope that everything will be ok. The workers in the automotive sector are frankly enraged at this dreadful and total abdication of leadership”

We need a lot more electricians if we’re going to electrify everything

By Emily Pontecorvo - Canary Media, January 11, 2023

The U.S. has a shortage of electricians to install clean equipment like EV chargers, heat pumps and induction stoves. Those who get into the field can earn big.

Chanpory Rith, a 42-year-old product designer at the software company Airtable, bought a house in Berkeley, California with his partner at the end of 2020. The couple wasn’t planning to buy, but when Covid hit and they began working from their one-bedroom San Francisco apartment, they developed a new hobby: browsing listings on Zillow and Redfin — ​“real estate porn,” as Rith put it.

Their pandemic fantasizing soon became a pandemic fairy tale: They fell for a five-bedroom midcentury home in the Berkeley hills with views of San Francisco Bay and put down an offer. ​“And then came the joys and tribulations of homeownership,” Rith said.

One of those tribulations began with a plan to install solar panels. Rith didn’t consider himself a diehard environmentalist, but he was concerned about climate change and wanted to do his part to help. He didn’t have a car but planned on eventually getting an electric vehicle and also wanted to swap out the house’s natural-gas appliances for electric versions. Getting solar panels would be a smart first step, he figured, because it might trim his utility bills. But Rith soon found out that the house’s aging electrical panel would need to be upgraded to support rooftop solar. And he had no idea how hard it would be to find someone to do it.

Many of the electricians Rith reached out to didn’t respond. Those who did were booked out for weeks, if not months. He said they were so busy that the conversations felt like interviews — as if he were being evaluated, to suss out whether his house was worth their time. 

“It felt like trying to get your kid into a nice kindergarten, where you have to be interviewed and do a lot of things just to get on the radar of these electricians,” Rith told Grist.

Passionate, Public Service-Oriented People Seeking Healthy, Rewarding Working Environments

By Laurel Paget-Seekins - Transit Center, January 4, 2023

There are not enough people working at transit agencies to provide the service our communities need. This problem existed before the pandemic, but it has evolved into a crisis. 

A 2015 Federal Government report on future transportation workforce needs identified a looming shortage. In 2014, over 65% of transit workers were 45 or older. The report projected annual job openings in transportation to be 68% higher than the number of students completing related education programs. 

On top of this, pandemic-related job churn hit the public sector particularly hard. The public sector quit rate reached a 20-year high in October of 2021. The American Public Transportation Association surveyed transit agencies in 2022; 92% reported difficulty with hiring, and 64% reported difficulty with retention.

Much of the reporting has highlighted vacancies in critical frontline roles, like bus and rail operators, dispatchers, and mechanics and maintenance workers. In July 2022, TransitCenter released a report that outlined causes behind and solutions to the national bus operator shortfall. However, transit agencies are also struggling to maintain fully staffed administrative, planning, engineering, and capital planning departments. In a November 2022 report, the Maryland Transit Administration reported vacancy rates over 10% in support departments like accounting, HR, engineering, IT, procurement and training.

Shortages in these roles can have a direct impact on customer experience, and can slow-down improvement projects like new customer information or capital improvements. For example, New York City DOT is behind on bus lane mileage mandated by the City’s Streets Master Plan, and a primary reason is staff shortages of planners and construction crews

We Need a Pro-Worker Transition to Electric Vehicles

By Paul Prescod - ZNet, December 21, 2022

The transition to electric vehicles is mandatory to address climate change. But if done haphazardly, it could result in massive job losses. Bold industrial policy and a rejuvenated United Auto Workers union can make electric vehicles a win for workers.

As the climate crisis grinds on, policymakers and economic elites are finally reading the writing on the wall for fossil fuels. The major automobile manufacturing companies have been devastatingly slow on the uptake, but they’re now starting to signal a greater commitment to the transition to electric vehicles.

Over the summer, Ford announced plans to invest $3.7 billion in electric vehicle production facilities across the Midwest. General Motors has increased its electric vehicle production target from one million by 2025 to two million. Newer companies like Tesla, Rivian, and Lucid have made their mark by manufacturing electric vehicles and are set to continue to grow.

While electric vehicle production is not free from environmental problems, the use of these cars over gas-powered ones would certainly be better for the climate.

But without broader changes to our industrial policy, the transition to electric vehicle production will not necessarily be good news for workers in the automobile industry.

As a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute outlines, without increased domestic production of electric vehicle batteries and other power train components, the large-scale introduction of electric vehicles could result in the loss of over two hundred fifty thousand jobs in automobile assembly and parts production. Currently, 75 percent of power train components for gas-powered vehicles are manufactured in the United States, as compared to just under 45 percent for electric vehicles.

The assembly of battery-powered electric vehicles is less complex and requires fewer workers than vehicles with an internal combustion engine. These job losses can only be offset if two conditions are met: a significant strengthening of domestic industries in the electric vehicle supply chain and electric vehicles rising to 50 percent of domestic automobile sales by 2030.

The Economic Policy Institute modeled various scenarios for the large-scale introduction of electric vehicles in the US market. In a scenario where electric vehicles reach 30 percent of the market share with current domestic production levels of electric vehicle power train components, around twenty thousand assembly jobs and twenty-five thousand parts jobs would be lost.

However, if an increase in electric vehicle market share can be matched with corresponding levels of power train production, over a hundred fifty thousand jobs would be gained.

While these scenarios may seem like abstract and technocratic formulations, they have deep implications for the future of important segments of the working class. For those still employed in the production of automobiles, the industry represents a critical gateway to a higher standard of living.

A Clean Energy Pathway for Southwestern Pennsylvania

By Joe Goodenbery, Eliasid Animas, and Jennifer Gorman - Ohio River Valley Institute, December 12, 2022

This report describes the development and analysis of a clean energy pathway for a 10-county region in southwestern Pennsylvania. Due to its abundance of fossil fuel resources, the region has a long history of substantial energy production, often at the expense of local environmental quality and economic diversity. A transition to clean energy provides a compelling opportunity to transform the local energy profile, while ending the region’s overreliance on fossil fuels, to reduce emissions and pursue a path of sustainable growth.

To date, the prevailing narrative for decarbonizing this region has centered around the perpetuation of the natural gas industry and costly investments in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies and infrastructure. Strategen’s analysis provides an alternative focused primarily on zero emissions resources, energy efficiency, increased electrification, and leveraging clean energy imports from outside the region, while minimizing the local need for fossil fuels.

Key Takeaways from this study:

  • A renewables-based pathway, including energy efficiency and clean energy imports from the PJM market, is more cost-effective than continued reliance on fossil fuels. A strategy focused on natural gas and carbon capture will be 13% more costly than the clean energy pathway, which avoids expensive investments in CCS technologies to reduce emissions, while limiting the region’s exposure to fuel price volatility and mitigating the risk of stranded fossil fuel assets.
  • In the developed decarbonization pathway, all coal plants and a significant portion of natural gas plants in the region will retire or reduce output by 2035, drastically reducing emissions going forward. A limited portion of natural gas plants may be kept online as capacity or peaking resources and to ensure reliability, though clean dispatchable resources could potentially serve this role in the future, as technology progresses.
  • The clean energy pathway results in a 97% reduction in CO₂ emissions from the power sector by 2050, leading to environmental benefits of nearly $2.7 billion annually. These benefits are greater than those associated with strategies built around natural gas and CCS, furthering the case for the clean energy pathway as a least cost option for energy transition.
  • Deep electrification of the transportation and buildings sectors can directly lower regional CO₂ emissions from these sectors by 95%. The total annual value of environmental and health benefits associated with combined reductions from the power, buildings, and transportation sectors reaches $4.2 billion in 2050, through avoided social costs.
  • Through reduced reliance on natural gas for power generation and in buildings, Strategen’s decarbonization pathway will decrease natural gas consumption by 96% and 98%, respectively, for two these sectors by 2050. Lower consumption provides an opportunity to reduce emissions associated with natural gas extraction. The value of these avoided emissions would surpass $1 billion in 2050 alone.
  • Energy efficiency is projected to increase over time, reducing regional electricity load by an average of 2.6% each year of the study period. Combined with electrification, the clean energy pathway results in overall load growth of 33% by 2050.
  • Efficiency measures not only reduce load, emissions, and the need for additional generation, but also lead to local job creation and savings for consumers. Expenditures on efficiency and resulting residential bill savings support 12,416 total jobs in 2035, and 15,353 total jobs by 2050. Compared to both power generation and fossil fuel extraction, energy efficiency has a greater potential for local economic development, leading to more, higher-paying jobs served by workers and suppliers within the region.

Download a copy of this publication here (Link).

Los Angeles Just Transition Strategy

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