Growing the Clean Energy Workforce With Infrastructure Investments

Image showing professionals in the clean energy workforce on the job.

According to the World Resources Institute, modernizing America’s electric grid infrastructure could create 150,000 to 200,000 full-time jobs each year through 2030.

Last November, President Biden signed a once-in-a-generation bill that promises to improve the USA’s decades-old infrastructure while boosting competitiveness and creating thousands of good paying jobs. This bill, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, aims to invest around $500 billion in new spending. In addition, the bipartisan infrastructure bill plans to upgrade existing power infrastructure by investing an additional $65 billion. Overall, the bill pledges $1 trillion to rebuild our aging infrastructure, from new transmission lines to a new national network of electric vehicle charging stations.

By tapping into the infrastructure funds, the electric utility sector can accelerate projects to strengthen and modernize the power grid. This is also the right time to restructure the present system to include more clean energy sources. Allocating funds to the utility sector will give projects that allow an easier integration of renewable energy to our electric grid a much needed boost.

Clean Energy Gets a Clean Nod

The funds allocated to renewable energy will emphasize the reduction of carbon emissions and overall carbon output in the country. In an effort to strengthen reliance on clean energy, money will also be spent on constructing thousands of miles of new transmission lines.  

The United States is among dozens of countries around the world that have set a goal of net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. To realize this goal, funds will be allocated to the research, invention and incorporation of newer and more efficient renewable technologies.

The bill also allows for reclamation of dormant or abandoned gas wells and mines, in an attempt to fix up Brownfield and Superfund sites.

Distribution of Resiliency and Grid Infrastructure Fund

The $65 billion worth of funds will be distributed into the following segments –

  • $5 billion will be spent on the creation and boosting of efficient clean energy.
  • $9 billion will be spent on the enhancement of manufacturing projects and facilities.
  • $21.5 billion will be spent on the development of clean energy research and innovation hubs.
  • $23 billion will be spent on the enhancement of power infrastructure resilience and renewable energy investment.

Activities for Funding Approval

To fund a project under this bill, the project must contain a qualifying activity that aligns with the Biden Administration’s goals. This can include:

  • Projects that improve weatherization and enable the installation of clean energy technologies in low-income communities
  • Projects that plan for EV (Electric Vehicle) charging infrastructure, and workforce development and training related to EV infrastructure  
  • Projects that increase reliance on domestic supply chains for energy storage batteries, as well as their components

Eligibility also extends to companies that implement or install clean energy systems and technologies within their own infrastructure. For instance, the company must contribute to renewable energy by –

  • Generating and utilizing wind energy in small or large scale
  • Generating and utilizing solar energy in small or large scale
  • Generating and utilizing energy from the ocean, through current, tidal or thermal means
  • Replacing or upgrading equipment and machinery which are no longer energy efficient
  • Introducing highly efficient HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning) systems in their office and factory infrastructures.

group of utility workers at substation infrastructure

Funding A Clean Energy Workforce

Not only does the historic bill propel the country towards becoming more green, it also guarantees more jobs. Increased reliance on clean energy will require a host of specialized profiles to produce, manage and distribute clean energy–from engineering talent to administrative and corporate professionals.

The Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy will be primarily responsible for dispatching the funds allocated in the infrastructure bill. Distribution of funds will occur either through a formula of annual allocation or through a competitive grants program.

With $65 billion earmarked for modernizing our grid, improving resiliency, and integrating renewable energy, companies will be gearing up to make the most out of this opportunity. Companies should begin evaluating current projects and projects in the pipeline. They should also check to see if existing projects qualify for grants under the newly allocated funds instead of creating new projects just for this purpose.

The Clean Energy Workforce Shortage 

Companies will also need to evaluate whether or not they currently have enough workers to fulfill these projects. The current energy transition in the US is among the largest projects ever experienced and will require hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide. Nearly every corner of the energy industry is facing some kind of workforce challenge, whether it’s a retiring workforce or a limited pipeline of new STEM talent.

On the other hand, skilled workers in the industry will find themselves in high-demand. Competition for talent will mean companies will have to pay premium wages and consider benefits such as hybrid and remote-work flexibility. For oil and gas workers that feared earning a lower salary working in clean energy, now might be the best time to transition your career.

Are you ready to advance your clean energy career? Get in touch with an energy consultant today.

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