3 Ways Trump’s Department of Energy Appointee Can Create Jobs

December 7, 2016 | 10:02 am
Dennis Schroeder/NREL
Rob Cowin
Former Contributor

More than 2.5 million Americans are now employed in clean energy or energy efficiency jobs, and the vast majority of new energy jobs being created are coming from the clean energy sector. If the new administration wants to create jobs and grow the economy, it needs to take a closer look at some of the great work the current Department of Energy (DOE) is doing in the clean energy space.

DOE programs are making a real contribution putting people to work. The next secretary of energy mustn’t ignore this, and should build on the outstanding work Secretary Moniz and his agency have done creating jobs through multi-stage research and development (R&D) programs, project financing, and workforce development.

Here are three ways the next secretary can keep the momentum going.

1. Support DOE loan programs

DOE Loan Programs have a 90% success rate, and have leveraged over $50 billion in investments in clean technologies that create jobs and grow economies.

The Advanced Technologies Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program alone has directly created 35,000 jobs across eight states. And Title XVII loan projects (innovative clean energy technologies) produce enough clean energy to power over a million homes annually. These programs are also profitable—roughly $850 million in the black as of September.


2. Invest in DOE R&D programs

The DOE SunShot Initiative is a hugely successful R&D program that has made solar much more affordable, and is 70% of the way towards achieving its goal of making solar fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by 2020.

Jobs in the solar industry are growing at a rate 12 times faster than the overall economy.

This program has contributed to a 22% increase in employment year over year for now more than 200,000 solar industry jobs. Jobs in the solar industry are growing at a rate 12 times faster than the overall economy. Given this kind of success, why not launch a SunShot-type program to help bring down the costs of energy storage?

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) makes early-stage investments in potentially transformative clean energy technologies, filling a large gap in private sector investment. Between 2009 and 2015 ARPA-E projects attracted over $850 million in private sector investment, creating new companies and new jobs, while growing new markets.

3. Build on workforce development programs

The Jobs Strategy Council is an initiative created to leverage DOE’s technical and economic expertise and resources to address workforce development needs and increase access to higher paying jobs. DOE has made the national labs more available to small businesses and entrepreneurs in order to help facilitate more commercial development of innovative clean energy technologies.

Programs like the Minorities in Energy Initiative address growing private sector employment gaps by increasing the participation of under-represented groups in energy and STEM careers. DOE has also launched the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which seeks to grow jobs by increasing US manufacturing competitiveness through analysis and modeling, stakeholder engagement, R&D, and technical assistance.

The opportunity

If the next secretary of energy is interested in bolstering the role the energy sector can play in growing our economy and creating jobs, he or she should be doubling down on R&D to innovate and grow new markets, while also improving the cost and performance of clean energy technologies.

He or she needs to increase credit support for clean energy project financing that puts steel in the ground, puts people to work, and cleanly powers American homes and businesses. And he or she needs to address shortfalls in technical education, job access, and industrial competitiveness that are deepening inequities in employment in the energy sector.

Building on the programs and initiatives mentioned above is just good common sense, no matter what the political environment. To keep the momentum going, President-elect Trump will have to pick a qualified candidate with a strong commitment to innovation, jobs, and economic development and a clear vision of how to strengthen our energy system for a solid, secure future.

Here’s to hoping the next secretary of energy is wise enough to support and build on what’s already working.