Declining costs of wind, solar power and energy efficiency is helping to drive a shift from fossil fuels generally — and coal in particular — to renewable energy and energy efficiency. From the first half of 2015 to the first half of 2016, renewable energy use rose by 9 percent while coal use in the U.S. dropped by 18 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration.
What does this shift mean for jobs? From 2014 to 2015 solar employment increased by 6 percent while employment in upstream oil and gas and support services dropped by 18 percent. This reduction reflects both declining coal consumption and continued reduction in labor intensity. There are now more jobs in the U.S. in solar than in either oil and gas extraction or coal mining.
What would a continued transition from fossil fuels — particularly coal — to renewable energy and energy efficiency mean for U.S. employment? The answer depends largely on how many jobs each sector creates — that is what is the employment intensity of each energy sector? The electricity sector involves millions of jobs, and arguments for one form of energy versus another usually involves claims about how many jobs investments in each form of energy will create.
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