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Year of clean energy job gains erased; Worse yet to come

The clean energy sector lost 106,000 jobs in March, erasing all of its gains last year, but those initial layoffs are likely only the tip of the iceberg for coming job losses related to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report Wednesday.

Clean energy manufacturing plants “that produce everything from electric vehicles and batteries to Energy Star appliances, building materials, high-efficiency lighting equipment and solar panels and wind turbine parts” have been shuttered in recent weeks due to economic fallout from Covid-19, according to the report by E2, a clean energy advocacy group.

E2, the American Council on Renewable Energy, and other clean energy groups don’t expect congressional help anytime soon, because Congress is likely to focus next on another injection of broad economic aid to workers and small businesses. Any help for clean energy is likely to be put off until later legislation, the groups say.

The bulk of job losses now rippling through the clean energy sector in April likely won’t be known until at least early May, as economic shocks from 40-plus states that have issued stay-at-home orders deepen, said Phil Jordan, vice president of BW Research Partnership, which wrote the report for E2.

Initial Impacts Only

The April job loss numbers will likely be known sometime around the first week of May, Jordan said in a conference call with reporters.

The findings were released alongside a separate report that said the clean energy sector’s employment growth was robust in 2019, with total employment at roughly 3.4 million. U.S. clean energy saw a 2% increase in job growth last year, though down from its 4% growth in 2018.

Tina Bennett, president and CEO of CMC Energy Services, which manages energy efficiency programs for utilities in 10 states including Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, said her company lost 85% of its revenue in recent weeks.

It is providing work stoppage pay to employees as a bridge while those workers await other assistance Congress has approved, including direct payments and increased unemployment benefits, Bennett said.