The clean energy industry is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. over the next decade. But so far, data shows that disadvantaged communities and populations have largely been left out of the energy transition.
The American Clean Power Association has launched a national initiative to focus on an equitable energy transition.
The Energy Transition for All campaign calls on the clean energy industry to expand opportunities for workers in disadvantaged communities, create value for communities with targeted investments and economic development, and to lead in diverse and inclusive workforce development.
“There is no single solution to ensure a successful energy transition,” ACP CEO Heather Zichal said. “It will take coordination from policymakers, community leaders, and industry to ensure that the transition is equitable and that everyone shares in the economic growth and opportunity.
"As an industry, we are committed to playing our part in creating a better future for everyone and an energy transition for all.”
Formerly known as the American Wind Energy Association, ACP was formed in 2020 to broaden its scope to represent wind, solar, storage, and transmission. Earlier this year, the U.S. Energy Storage Association trade group completed its merger with ACP.
ACP has worked to distinguish itself as the unified voice of clean energy with its more than 700 member companies and is now taking on the responsibility to address clear disparities in the workforce's demographics.
Women make up just 30% of the clean energy workforce overall, while Black people represent only 8%, according to ACP. Women make up 15% of clean energy corporate boards, and Black, Indigenous, and people of color represent 6% of board membership.
"The numbers are abysmal," Zichal told Renewable Energy World in an interview. "This is going to continue to be a priority for me, it's a priority for our board members. We have a lot of areas of opportunity."Providing pathwaysClearway Energy's West Virginia Pilot Apprenticeship Program provides $20,000 to cover wages and education to former coal workers looking to become wind technicians. (Courtesy: Clearway Energy)
The ACP framework directs clean energy companies to ensure that individuals from all backgrounds are aware and have access to opportunities while guaranteeing prevailing wages and other benefits for construction jobs and investing in growth and advancement opportunities.
One touchpoint for the industry is through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) student competitions in K-12. Companies should support existing programs and create apprenticeship opportunities that balance classroom instruction with paid job training, the report notes.
For career fossil fuel workers, ACP recommends that clean energy companies connect directly with operators of closing fossil facilities to engage with their workforces, while also mobilizing workforce development organizations.
Clearway Energy's West Virginia Pilot Apprenticeship Program, for example, provides $20,000 to cover wages and education to former coal workers looking to become wind technicians.
Simplifying the application process can lead to a higher volume, and more diverse, applications, the report found.
Enel Green Power limited its online application to only essential questions, reducing the application time from 15 to 5 minutes. The company found more applicants were willing to voluntarily self-identify diversity data as a result.Create value
By targeting investment in or near communities in need of growth, and supporting local and diverse-owned businesses, clean energy companies can create value and become engaged stakeholders in communities.
Through Long-term contracts, the clean energy industry can provide leverage to women and minority-owned businesses that otherwise struggle to attract capital or financial support.
Dominion Energy spent more than $1 billion last year with local, and women and minority-owned businesses, ACP said. The investor-owned utility holds an annual conference to connect diverse suppliers to company leaders.
American Electric Power set a goal of 15% diverse spending by the end of 2025, resulting in $650 million spent with diverse suppliers in 2020 and $3.4 billion spent with locally-based suppliers.Take the lead
ACP acknowledges that not all of its member companies track diversity, equity, and inclusion performance.
Standardized data is necessary to understand the demographic disparities within clean energy companies and to properly address the problem. Clear goal setting must follow workforce analysis.
The trade group committed to partnering with organizations that represent diverse communities and institutions, like HBCUs, that train diverse talent.
After attracting and hiring diverse talent, clean energy companies must provide a pathway for career advancement, ACP said.
Duke Energy committed to growing the share of women in the utility's workforce to 25% and people of color to 20%. Duke increased its diverse spending by 10% to about $100 million and partnered with HBCUs for recruiting activities.