May 13, 2020 / 5:51 PM / 3 months ago

Clean energy has shed nearly 600,000 U.S. jobs due to pandemic: report

FILE PHOTO: Solar installers from Baker Electric place solar panels on the roof of a residential home in Scripps Ranch, San Diego, California, U.S. October 14, 2016. Picture taken October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - The U.S. clean energy sector has lost 17% of its work force, or nearly 600,000 jobs, as stay-at-home orders halt production of components from solar panels to electric cars and slow installations at homes and businesses, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The sector lost 447,200 jobs, about triple the 147,100 lost in March when states first began implementing lockdown orders to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, according to the analysis of U.S. unemployment data conducted by BW Research Partnership.

While they represent a tiny fraction of the nation’s total job losses during the period, the clean energy industry’s fall in employment has exceeded estimates. After a similar study last month, BW Research had projected 500,000 job losses sector-wide by the end of June. It now expects 850,000 job losses, about a quarter of all clean energy jobs, in that time.

“The data does not suggest that we have yet to hit the bottom,” BW Research Partnership Principal Phil Jordan said in a statement.

Total U.S. unemployment claims have reached 33.5 million since mid-March, according to the Department of Labor.

The clean energy industry’s job losses are a devastating blow to an industry that had been growing rapidly. The 594,347 jobs lost is more than double the number the sector has created since 2017, the report said.

Energy efficiency accounted for 70% of the losses, as contractors who install efficient lighting or heating and cooling systems were unable to access homes and offices. Renewable energy has shed more than 95,000 jobs and the clean vehicle industry has lost 46,500 jobs, according to the report.

California was the state hardest hit, with more than 100,000 jobs lost in total. Florida, Georgia, Texas and Michigan each lost more than 22,000 clean energy jobs in April alone, the report said.

Clean energy trade groups have been lobbying Congress to extend deadlines here for renewable energy projects to qualify for sunsetting federal tax credits in a bid to stem the sector's job losses.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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