Wind turbine, Suffolk, UK. (Photo by David Potter / Construction Photography / Avalon / Getty Images)
On this Labor Day, with the world swirling in a kaleidoscope of massive challenges, it looks like some of those challenges could be addressed all at once by moving to an economy powered by renewable energy, not primarily fossil fuel will.
The massive and unexpectedly devastating damage from Hurricane Ida last week, even to New York City and inland New Jersey and the coast of Louisiana, is a haunting reminder that we must mitigate and slow down climate change.
To do this, we need to drive the economy without additional CO2 emissions, and many scientists say that we also need a “negative carbon system” that removes the CO2 that is already in the atmosphere.
The good news for business is that “the ongoing global energy transition offers the opportunity to create new jobs and to redesign all aspects of energy generation and distribution”, according to the report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) “Renewable Energies : A Gender Perspective ”(2019) and estimates that these jobs could grow to almost 29 million in 2050.
Anne Kelly, Vice President, Government Relations, Ceres
How do President Biden’s infrastructure laws meet these needs? “This is a job plan,” Anne Kelly, Vice President of Government Relations and Director, Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy at Ceres, a long-standing, sustainability-focused nonprofit, told me recently on my Electric Ladies podcast.
Biden’s infrastructure plans, Kelly said, address “four interrelated challenges facing the administration. The first is the post-pandemic reality, the second is the economic downturn, the third is the climate crisis, and the fourth is inequality and racial justice, as well as the disproportionate environmental and other damage inflicted on low-income communities and communities. “
“The general theme is that the path to economic recovery is via climate protection. So it is an infrastructure and employment plan, but there is no question that it is deliberately addressing the climate crisis in different ways, ”she explained.
Help wanted: women in renewable energies
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report on Renewable Energy: A Gender Perspective, 2019
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
In order to drive this climate-friendly economic growth forward, we need more women in the renewable energies sector in the IRENA report – and many of them. Currently, women only hold 32% of renewable energy jobs, which is better than fossil fuels, where women only hold 22% of the jobs. But women still have far fewer jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
We need the skills and innovative ideas that diverse talents bring with them, which is why “gender equality … is also essential for shaping positive social and economic development results. Women offer valuable perspectives in important decisions, from investment priorities to project design, ”says the IRENA report.
Since the renewable energy sector needs talent across its supply chain – from utilities to engineering firms, from independent power generators to startups, in politics, regulatory agencies, academic institutions and the community level – “the renewable energy industry needs to change Engage and retain energies “more women – and encourage them – to meet the growing need for skills,” emphasizes the IRENA report.
“The leadership and contribution of women will be crucial to ensure that the energy systems of the future meet the needs of modern societies and leave no one behind,” so she added, “The promotion of gender equality and the inclusion of gender issues at all levels should be a high priority in both the public and private sectors. “
The August 2021 job report showed growth in at least one key area
WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 22: Electric vehicles are displayed ahead of a press conference with the White House … [+]
While many have described the August 2021 job report as disappointing due to expectations and the previous months of very strong employment growth, one sector vital to economic growth and a clean economy is transport, and that sector has this month at least modest jobs created. Transportation and warehousing created 53,000 jobs in August 2021, and women have more transportation jobs than a year ago. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women held 25.1% of transportation jobs in August 2021, up from 24.5% in August 2020 (and more than 25% in July 2021).
Kelly said the sector is critical to tackling climate change: “We have to deal with the biggest sources of emissions. So the (Biden infrastructure) plan really deals with the transformation of our transport system, the electrification of our transport system, the purchase of electric vehicles, the expansion of the electric vehicle infrastructure on a large scale, here too there are some of these tasks – generating elements. “
Protect us from a loss of power – and create jobs
Electricity pylons lean over a road after Hurricane Ida on August 31, 2021 in Houma, … [+]
We know that there will be more extreme weather events and that they will keep getting worse. Think Hurricane Ida on steroids. That means we need to get the “smart grid” we’ve all heard about for years.
“Grid modernization is essential if you are contributing to a clean energy economy. You have to upgrade the network and make it responsive, ”said Kelly, adding,“ and all of this creates jobs. ”
We just have to ensure that women get a fair share of these jobs so that we don’t repeat the ERCOT groupthink disaster in Texas. Our lives and our livelihoods depend on it.