January 20, 2017 Read More →

IEEFA Update: Over Sound and Fury From Elsewhere, Energy Transition Rolls On

One Segment of the Electricity-Generation Industry Is Rising; the Other Is in Decline

Buried in the blizzard of political-transition headlines this week, an electricity-generation transition continues unabated.

While armies of satellite-news trucks idle on the streets of Washington and live-at-five anchors drone on from the capitol, the market-driven driven shift toward renewable energy takes root across the heartland and from coast to coast.

When the coal industry’s godfather-politician Mitch McConnell concedes that times have changed and there’s no turning back, you know something’s up.

McConnell is no lone wolf—he’s only joining the pack. Peter Maloney, writing in Utility Dive this week, documents fast-expanding bipartisan political support for the growing renewable-energy economy, “a sign that the link between job growth and renewable energy incentives may be trumping traditional partisan affiliations.”

A report published quietly this month by the Department of Energy is loaded with jobs data that lays bare the truth.

A passage from the report:

“Just under 374,000 individuals work, in whole or in part, for solar firms, with more than 260,000 of those employees spending the majority of their time on solar. There are an additional 102,000 workers employed at wind firms across the nation.”

That’s not quite the 467,648 jobs the DOE says the fossil-fuel industry supports—in coal, oil and gas extraction—but one number is rising while the other is in decline. As IEEFA noted in a briefing published by Tom Sanzillo and David Schlissel this week that includes a coal-jobs graphic worth a thousand words, 75,572 workers were employed this past September by the coal industry, barely a third of the U.S. coal workforce a generation ago and a tiny fraction of the total when coal truly reigned almost 100 years ago.

While solar is seen as the fastest-growing source of new electricity generation in the U.S., wind is only just beginning to have its day, as detailed in a recent IEEFA note describing how record amounts of wind-powered generation are being installed in the Midwest and Texas.

The Pentagon, in the meantime, is among those speaking truth to political power in its rejection of disingenuous arguments that a new wind farm in North Carolina will interfere with national security.

That project goes online this month, regardless of the sound and fury from opponents.

Karl Cates is IEEFA’s director of media relations.

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