Energy transition could create 1.1 million jobs in Texas, report says

The transition from fossil fuels to clean energy could create more than 1.1 million jobs in Texas over the next 25 years to build out wind and solar generation, upgrade transmission, improve energy efficiency and advance new technologies, according to a report released Monday by 27 labor unions.

The 55-page report also called for using tax credits to expand carbon capture technologies, electrifying vehicles used by local governments, updating building standards for energy efficiency and installing solar panels on the state’s public schools.

The unions—including the United Steelworkers, the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and the Texas State Employees Union—are using the report to launch a new initiative, the Texas Climate Jobs Project, which aims to address the challenges of climate change, the energy transition and income inequality. Delegates at the Texas AFL-CIO’s annual convention, which opens virtually Tuesday, will vote on a resolution endorsing the report and the mission of the jobs project.

Union officials said they will work with political and industry leaders to advance clean energy projects and working conditions in the renewable energy industry. Bo Delp, executive director of the Texas Climate Jobs Project, said the key to the success of the energy transition will come down to creating quality, good-paying jobs.

“We have this transition that’s underway in Texas and really no plan to make sure these jobs being created are actually good jobs,” he said. “Workers do not have a seat at the table.”

The Texas AFL-CIO worked with researchers from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., Northeastern University in Boston and Occidental College in Los Angeles to study the number jobs that could be created in various aspects of growing the renewable energy and climate tech industries. Using data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Energy Information Administration, researchers calculated how many jobs were created at various clean energy projects across the country.

They said nearly 455,000 more could be created if companies installed 100,000 megawatts of wind energy in Texas over the next 25 years, and an additional 335,400 jobs if 40,000 megawatts of solar were built in 20 years. Such an expansion would triple wind generation capacity from current levels and increase solar generating capacity by nearly six times.

Retrofitting all of Texas’ K-12 schools with more energy-efficient air-conditioning and construction that the report said would create nearly 84,000 jobs.

Lara Skinner, one of the report’s authors and director of Cornell’s Labor Leading on Climate Initiative, said the number of jobs created may seem high, but they would be added over a period of up to 25 years. That would average to about 5,000 jobs a year for updating school buildings, for example.

The study did not examine how many jobs in the oil and gas industry would be lost as the energy transition unfolds, but Skinner said job losses in those industries appear inevitable as the world scrambles to avoid the worst effects of climate change and their massive costs. 

Delp said leaders in all levels of government can help make sure workers aren’t left behind in the transition. City and school board leaders can include labor protections on wages, overtime and working conditions in requests for proposals for green initiatives. Renewable companies can meet with workers and unions to discuss salaries and benefits.

“We must ensure that working people thrive in this clean energy transition,” Delp said. “If we cannot solve that problem, our ability to meaningfully address climate change will be much more difficult.”

The Texas AFL-CIO's Texas Climate Jobs Project is an initiative funded by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. 

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