“the Energy Transition Workforce: Jobs Of The Future” – In this final report, EDF and Resources for the Future condense lessons from the previous four reports that U.S. Fossil fuel workers and communities can inform federal policy to support the transition to a cleaner economy.

Wesley Luke, Daniel Raimi, Molly Robertson and RFF’s Dan Propp and EDF’s Jake Higdon contributed to the reporting described in this blog post.

“the Energy Transition Workforce: Jobs Of The Future”

The White House is taking much-needed action to address the climate crisis and move our economy toward a cleaner future. While the majority of Americans are excited for this change and for clean energy and manufacturing jobs, there are important questions about how to help fossil fuel workers and communities through this transition.

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Many of the nation’s coal communities are at the forefront of the energy transition, seeing bustling main streets quiet as people and businesses leave town with the coal industry. Falling prices for renewable energy and natural gas over the past decade have left coal-dependent workers and communities with few job opportunities to support their families and significantly less revenue to keep cities afloat. The pandemic brought these issues to the fore not only for coal communities but also for oil and gas employment, which shed more than 100,000 jobs last year.

To fulfill a campaign promise to support workers that has fueled America for decades, the Biden-Harris administration must seize this moment to uplift and transform local and regional economies across the US that have long depended on fossil fuel production. The administration’s new interagency working group to facilitate investment in power plants and coal communities is a big step in the right direction, but more policy support will be needed.

A new report from the Environmental Defense Fund and Resources for the Future, which summarizes learning and insights from more than 100 federal policies and four previous reports, shows how lawmakers need to deploy a set of policies to ensure a just and equitable transition to fossil fuels. Labor Our research shows that four categories of measures will be needed: labor development and labor standards; economic progress; infrastructure and environmental measures; and public benefits. The report also contains important lessons for lawmakers to effectively implement these policies.

To protect and invest in fossil fuel workers and communities facing the energy transition, federal lawmakers should use four strategies:

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In addition to outlining the need for these interconnecting policy types, the report provides key insights for effectively implementing these policies. First, we know that strong coordination at the local, state, tribal, and federal levels will be critical to the success of any program. Communities must determine their own futures and policies must empower them to guide the investment of federal funding and resources. The Appalachian Regional Commission, which promotes economic development in 13 states and combines federal, state and local leadership, provides a successful model for connecting community stakeholders with federal grants.

Early and sequential actions anticipating financial change can play a major role in effectiveness and cost. This may include calling on stakeholders to proactively plan ahead of potential closures; ensuring workers get pensions; giving advance notice of closing; implementing programs to increase local tax revenue; and finding displaced workers new, quality jobs before plants or mines close.

Critically, the only transition policy should be fair and inclusive. Lawmakers can address the legacy of underinvestment and environmental injustice in low-income communities and communities of color by prioritizing investments in infrastructure, environmental solutions, and workforce development programs in these communities. And they should transparently engage affected workers and community members in both the design and implementation of programs.

Finally, federal efforts must increase local government revenues to keep essential services running. For communities dependent on fossil fuel production revenues for services such as education and clean water, federal lawmakers may need to provide a lifeline of funding support. These funds can come from additional local tax base opportunities, transfers from the general fund, or investments in new federal revenue sources such as carbon pricing. States can help fossil fuel-dependent communities become more proactive in transition planning by giving them the tools and autonomy to effectively manage their finances.

The Green Migration: Reskilling The Brown Energy Workforce

Scaling up the clean energy transition to meet the urgency of the climate crisis will be a definite challenge of this decade – but how we get there matters a lot. Finding the right path requires genuinely listening to and amplifying the needs and experiences of workers, families and communities whose livelihoods are at risk in the transition. The insights and guidance provided in our joint research, as well as the policy platform created by the BlueGreen Alliance and the Just Transition Fund, can help lawmakers give these communities the tools and support they need to thrive in a clean energy future. Employees in brown The energy sector – the industry responsible for the production of fossil fuels including gas, coal and oil – faces an uncertain future. Last month, I met with former Colorado gubernatorial candidate Noel Ginsburg and Founder, CEO and President of CareerWise Colorado at the ASU+GSV Summit to discuss the future of the Brown Energy workforce. During the discussion, we highlighted how businesses in the industry are introducing automated technologies to increase efficiency and improve on-site results. The implementation of new technology is displacing a large part of the workforce. Look around any mining site today and you’ll see plenty of autonomous vehicles, but very few humans. At the same time, the industry is experiencing massive external disruption. There has been an exponential decline in the cost and reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Combine this with changing global demand, geopolitical factors driving the move towards clean energy and societal awareness of increasing sustainability – the brown energy sector is facing unprecedented change. In Pearson’s recent report ‘The Key to the Energy Transition: Reskilling and Upskilling from Fossil Fuels to Renewables’ we highlighted that the oil and coal industries are losing jobs. Between 2009 and 2017, employment in the coal industry fell by 58%. However, it’s not all doom and gloom for workers in the brown energy sector. Where there is change, there is opportunity. While the demand for roles in brown energy is decreasing rapidly, the demand for roles in green energy is increasing. And best of all, Pearson’s data shows that when you look at the skills in the two sectors, there’s actually very little skill gap: During my discussion with Noel, we explored how brown energy can infect the workforce. Future-proofed roles that will be in demand for years to come. We have an opportunity to leverage the transferable skills of employees in the brown energy sector to enable them to move through the green energy sector job corridor. Pearson is already working with the likes of the State of Texas, the Government of South Africa and the Government of Australia to address this challenge and embrace changes in energy demand in a way that considers the human impact: however, I also point out that when it comes to transitioning employees from brown to green energy in the workforce Just matching skills is not enough. It is the social and moral responsibility of organizations, businesses and governments to look at how technology will impact each role in the workforce and identify a future-proof role path. The transition won’t be seamless either. The transition will require a concerted effort from employers, government and academic institutions. The job does not stop once the job corridor is identified. Employees need to be up-skilled or re-skilled to ensure they have the relevant skills to take on roles in an entirely new industry: What’s more, the skills Pearson identified as the most in-demand skills in green energy roles are the soft skills that technology can never replace – creativity, problem-solving and Human connection. While technology roles remain a component of the workforce, organizations must support employees in learning these skills that can never be replaced. Equipped with the right skills, workers in the brown energy sector will be able to take on roles in green energy – or other sectors with longevity, such as construction or healthcare. Displaced employees don’t have to be left behind – with the right reskilling program, we can ensure every person is fit for employment. Predictive analytics at work is globally recognized as a world first. Contact us today for a demo of the platform.

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In last month’s newsletter, I talked about the importance of understanding how HR leaders can ensure they are recruiting and training employees with the right skills.

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