COVID-19 Axed 106,000 Clean Energy Jobs Last Month And These 3 Sectors Accounted For 93% Of It
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COVID-19 Axed 106,000 Clean Energy Jobs Last Month And These 3 Sectors Accounted For 93% Of It

COVID-19 Axed 106,000 Clean Energy Jobs Last Month And These 3 Sectors Accounted For 93% Of It

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Just last month alone, the clean energy sector shed a record number of jobs. That number is 106,000—and to put it into perspective, that loss is equivalent to about a year’s worth of gains.

But job loss during times of economic bust isn’t homogenous. A study done by BW Research Partnership for advocacy group E2 verifies that this one is no different. Specifically, just three sectors shed over 98,000 jobs, or 92.6% of the total job loss.

Here’s how the numbers break down.

1. Energy Efficiency (69,800 Jobs Lost)

The energy efficiency sector broadly includes any company that aims to help both people and enterprises do more with less energy; it spans a variety of use cases, including home energy management software and higher-performing lightbulbs, for instance.

As it relates to business and employees, the sector is inclusive of construction work (which represents about half of the energy efficiency sector) and utility programs, both of which hire a lot of contractors.

In large part, stay-at-home orders are keeping a lot of construction sites closed; as a result, 27% of construction companies in the United States reported layoffs during the COVID-19 crisis, according to an AGC survey.

Companies making money from energy auditing (and related services) are slowing down too. People simply don’t want auditors coming into their homes during this social distancing period. And companies are shutting down because of it.

2. Renewable Energy (16,500 Jobs Lost)

As projections show solar installations falling almost 20% in 2020 and wind installations falling 6.5%, it is no surprise that companies in the sector are cutting jobs.

Our economic contraction is crushing power demand—commercial buildings and factories are in large part closed during these unusual times. And as a result, firms that power these companies are feeling the pain and have to let people go.

For instance, residential solar company Sungevity laid off almost 400 employees, according to a recent Employment Development Department filing. And Sunrun, a competitor, also let about 100 employees go, with plans to furlough more.

3. Clean Vehicles (12,300 Jobs Lost)

Starting from a revenue forecast perspective, research firm Wood Mackenzie projects that the EV space will see a 43% (global) sales reduction in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inevitably, this impacts jobs at companies that make electric vehicles at scale. If we look at some of the largest electric vehicle makers in the United States, we might observe Tesla, Honda, and Nissan.

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Though it’s not immediately clear how many jobs will be lost at Tesla, the company announced it would furlough employees “who cannot work at home and have not been assigned to critical work onsite,” translating to over “half of [the company’s] U.S. sales and delivery employees” as of last week, CNBC learned from company insiders. At the Nevada Gigafactory, this policy translated to a 75% reduction in onsite staff.

Each of Honda and Nissan laid off over 10,000 employees, though it’s unclear how many of EV-related jobs those numbers entail. Both companies also plan to continue production late April or early May at the earliest, so job losses could keep mounting.

And these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg; they merely account for the largest automakers. The consideration leaves out smaller companies, like electric scooter startup Bird, which recently laid off over 400 employees. Their layoff numbers likely add up to significant figures too and contribute to the 106,000 clean energy jobs that have unfortunately been taken from the sector.

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This article was originally published at Forbes, where I also maintain a column, and lightly edited to be published at theRising.

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