California solar boom endorsing job opportunities

Favorable state-wide as well as federal clean-energy policies have helped California to position as one of the leading country in solar energy production, according to a new report by UC Berkeley.

Consequently, this has helped to create a boom in construction jobs while working towards curbing climate change.

California’s use of electricity from renewable sources has increased from 11 percent in 2008 to nearly 20 percent in 2013.

More than 15,000 new jobs have been created in last five years by this solar-farm construction boom, with workers building solar arrays earning on average $78,000 a year, details the report.

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On combining high-road construction practices like union apprenticeship with smart environmental policies and green technologies, climate change can be tackled, growing a clean energy economy that sustains working families, said, John O’Rourke, vice president, 9th District International, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

California has made addressing climate disruption a priority, which has led to a thriving clean energy economy and the creation thousands of new, exciting, and meaningful opportunities for the workforce. This report is proof of that success and an example of how protecting the health and environment creates jobs and boosts the economy, said, Michael Brune, executive director, Sierra Club.

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It is only a beginning for the clean energy potential and with it incredible job growth. California must continue to push for more clean energy generation and inspire the rest of the nation to follow, added Brune.

The jobs include 10,000 construction jobs building utility-scale solar facilities, mostly big solar farms that generate electricity and supply it to the energy grid, located in less-populous areas.

Generally, labor and environmental groups ensure that projects are built in an environmentally-responsible way that avoids harmful impacts to sensitive habitat and creates good-quality jobs.

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Other solar jobs involve operating and maintaining the utility-scale plants, which have lifespans of roughly 25 years, and pay about $69,000 a year.

In California, the construction jobs created by the utility-scale solar boom have been good jobs paying decent wages, providing good benefits, and creating upward-mobility career ladders for blue-collar construction workers, says, Peter Philips, study author, visiting scholar, UC Berkeley.

However in states without policies and practices that bend construction work towards high-skilled careers, solar projects often obtain workers from temporary labor agencies. Most of these workers earn low wages with limited benefits and they have little access to training or career advancement, says Philips.

Four key policy actions are suggested by the report to boost up California’s construction boom such as renewing the federal Investment Tax Credit at 30 percent, expanding California’s statewide renewable energy mandate beyond its current goal of 33 percent and protecting Assembly Bill 32, the climate change legislation, from implementation delays.

Besides, promoting collective bargaining and joint labor-management apprenticeship programs on energy projects during construction, operation and maintenance is the fourth policy action recommended by the report.

Sabeena Wahid

editor@greentechlead.com