Heinrich, Tonko Lead Bicameral Call For Inclusion Of Clean Energy Workforce Support In COVID-19 Economic Recovery Packages

The lawmakers’ letter comes as nearly 600,000 clean energy workers have experienced job loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) are urging congressional leaders to prioritize a clean energy recovery plan in upcoming economic relief and recovery packages to deal with the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Senator Heinrich and Representative Tonko led a bicameral letter signed by 57 members calling on Congress to take action to support the clean energy industry to both address the climate crisis and revitalize the American job market and economy.

The lawmakers’ call for urgency comes as nearly 600,000 clean energy workers have experienced unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Closures due to COVID-19 have led to clean energy sector manufacturing reductions, supply chain issues, decreased installation of renewable energy, and decreased energy efficiency work. A report estimates almost 850,000 job losses may occur by the end of the Second Quarter of 2020 if no actions are taken to support the workforce and industry.

“As Congress works to help the American economy recover, we must ensure robust investments are made to spur growth in renewable energy, energy storage, energy efficiency, clean vehicles, clean and efficient infrastructure, clean fuels, and workforce development,” the lawmakers wrote. “These investments should both spur national growth and include funding opportunities for community-level adoption. Smart investments in these areas can help America decarbonize, put people back to work, and help our national, state, and local economies recover.”

In an effort to spur production and save money for consumers, the bicameral group of members is also calling for an extension of and increased flexibility for clean energy tax incentives. Senator Heinrich has long advocated for clean energy tax incentives as an effective way to support the growth of clean energy and clean energy technologies and reduce carbon emissions.

The lawmakers continued, “The myriad devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are staggering, and further compounded by a potentially prolonged economic downturn. In the midst of urgent action to staunch these losses and rebuild, it can be difficult to also focus on our country’s long-term needs. However, the impending climate crisis poses an existential threat to America and to the world and is expected to increasingly impact many of the same communities that have been most vulnerable during the pandemic. We must work to recreate an economy that is stronger, cleaner, and more inclusive. The clean energy workforce and sector are a key component of that effort, and must be included in recovery planning.”

In the Senate, Senator Heinrich led the letter also signed by U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

In the House, Representative Tonko led the letter also signed by U.S. Representatives Nannette Barragán (D-Calif.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.), Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Doris Matsui (Calif.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Chellie Pingree (D-Minn.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), David Price (D-N.C.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Darren Soto (D-Florida), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

Read the full text of the letter below or by clicking here.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy:

The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis are devastating the clean energy workforce and sector, undercutting our country’s efforts to develop a strong and inclusive clean energy economy and severely hindering our nation’s ability to combat climate change. As Congress develops forward-looking policies to rebuild the American jobs market and economy, we urge you to prioritize a robust clean energy recovery plan.

Nationally, approximately 594,300 clean energy workers have lost their jobs during the pandemic, while many others have been temporarily furloughed or underemployed.[1] This total represents an approximately 17.4% decrease in clean energy employment. To put this in perspective, in April, the national unemployment rate was 14.7%.[2] Further, these clean energy jobs losses also represent more than double the past 3 years of industry-wide clean energy employment growth.[3] Recent analysis “conservatively project[s]” that the clean energy sector will have lost approximately 850,000 jobs – about a quarter of its workforce – by the end of Q2 2020 if no actions are taken to support the workforce and industry.[4]

Closures due to COVID-19 have also led to manufacturing reductions, supply chain issues, and decreased installation of renewable energy. For example, the Solar Energy Industries Association expects only 3GW of solar capacity will be installed in Q2 2020, a 37% decrease from pre-COVID-19 projections.[5] The American Wind Energy Association has stated COVID-19 is putting an estimated 25GW of wind projects at risk.[6] Meanwhile, respondents to an Energy Storage Association survey cited customer delays or cancellations, difficulty in obtaining equipment or other logistical challenges, and permitting and approval delays.[7] In addition, energy efficiency work has ground to a near halt as manufacturing and installation of energy efficient building materials and appliances has declined.[8]

As Congress works to help the American economy recover, we must ensure robust investments are made to spur growth in renewable energy, energy storage, energy efficiency, clean vehicles, clean and efficient infrastructure, clean fuels, and workforce development. These investments should both spur national growth and include funding opportunities for community-level adoption. Smart investments in these areas can help America decarbonize, put people back to work, and help our national, state, and local economies recover.

In addition, a number of the existing clean energy tax incentives for individuals and businesses are phasing down or expiring. Extending and providing additional flexibility for these credits, which spur production and save money for consumers, is another important facet of a quick recovery.

As we work to rebuild the clean energy workforce and sector, we must ensure we are creating high quality jobs that uphold fair labor standards and collective bargaining agreements. Federal investments must include provisions to work with organized labor.

The myriad devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are staggering, and further compounded by a potentially prolonged economic downturn. In the midst of urgent action to staunch these losses and rebuild, it can be difficult to also focus on our country’s long-term needs. However, the impending climate crisis poses an existential threat to America and to the world and is expected to increasingly impact many of the same communities that have been most vulnerable during the pandemic. We must work to recreate an economy that is stronger, cleaner, and more inclusive. The clean energy workforce and sector are a key component of that effort, and must be included in recovery planning.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Sincerely,