The US Department of Energy has released a report this month revealing that the solar power industry in the United States employs more people than do the coal, oil and gas industries combined. According to the “US Energy and Employment Report,” 374,000 people worked for the solar energy industry during the last year. That means solar energy employees make up 43 percent of the employees in the “electrical power generation sector.” That large percentage is partly due to the construction of new solar plants. During the past year, the number of people employed by solar plants jumped by 25 percent; 73,000 more people got jobs in solar energy.
Wind power also increased in importance. Nearly 102,000 people work for wind power – a 32 percent increase since 2015. As with solar power, most of the increase is due to construction of new facilities.
By contrast, fossil fuels are declining. Combined, they employ a little over 187,000 people or about 22 percent of the employees in the “electrical power generation” sector. Coal has declined by a precipitous 53 percent from 2006 to 2016. During that same decade, electrical generation by natural gas increased by 33 percent, while electrical generation by solar increased by a staggering 5000 percent.
The Department of Energy reports that a total of 6.4 million Americans work in the energy industry. 300,000 jobs were added during 2016, and those jobs constituted 14 percent of the job growth for that year.
The report concluded, “The electric generation mix in the United States is changing, driven by the transition of coal-fired power plants to natural gas and the increase in low carbon sources of energy.” It added that the changes in the employment figures demonstrate the results of that transition. As more people use renewables and they become cheaper and more readily available, fossil fuels will continue to decline.