As clean energy deployment accelerates across the U.S. with solar and wind power now supplying more electricity than coal and $1.7 trillion in new renewable projects expected this decade, Ceres issues a set of recommendations to help ensure local communities and workers are not left behind in the clean energy transition.
Recognizing in the transition a huge opportunity to create a more equitable, just and sustainable economy, the report—Practices for Just, Equitable and Sustainable Development of Clean Energy Resources—details how the rapid clean energy deployment underway can and must embrace local stakeholders’ needs for local jobs, economic benefits and protection of environmental habitats.
It recommends five essential practices to incorporate into project design and development, and urges renewable energy developers and purchasers, regulators and investors to adopt them:
- Engage stakeholders on environmental, workforce and community concerns throughout the clean energy development process.
- Protect and efficiently use environmental resources by employing best practices for siting, wildlife protection, compensation and community involvement.
- Adopt responsible contracting policies that provide a framework for ensuring a clean energy transition delivers on its promise of good jobs and economic opportunity for local workers and communities.
- Provide meaningful local economic benefits by investing in, helping develop or advocating for workforce investment with a focus on underserved communities and workers of color and just transitions for conventional energy workers being displaced by clean energy projects.
- Ensure compliance and monitoring by evaluating developer commitment to provide long-term transparency for all project partners and stakeholders.
“The transition to clean energy underway is urgently needed to combat the climate crisis and prevent global average temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said the Rev. Kirsten Snow Spalding, senior director of the Ceres Investor Network, and author of the report. “However, more clean energy project developers, regulators and investors must engage local communities and workers in planning project siting and staffing, or they will otherwise jeopardize the adoption and future uptake of clean energy.”
Clean energy is among the fastest growing job sectors, with 3.4 million people working in all facets of clean energy last year including 523,000 people in wind and solar alone. However, as Ceres’ report shows, some wind turbines and solar panels going up in communities across America are manufactured thousands of miles away and are installed by low-wage or traveling workers who move in temporarily to build a project. When clean energy projects displace fossil fuel workers who have kept the lights on in communities for years, that can lead to resistance to future projects and jeopardizes clean energy adoption.
The report, which relied on research from Harvard Kennedy School’s Initiative for Responsible Investment and the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Minnesota & North Dakota Council, shows that implementing the five recommendations will help communities achieve their climate goals while benefiting the business interests of developers and investors as well as local workforce and economic development.
Moreover by adopting these practices that ensure the just, equitable and sustainable deployment of renewable energy, clean industry businesses can spur new opportunities including improved customer loyalty, access to talent, and reduction of brand risk.
“We can’t afford to leave anyone behind as we move toward a clean energy economy,” said Kevin Pranis of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Minnesota and North Dakota Council. “High-quality local jobs and economic development are just as critical as greenhouse gas reductions to a successful energy transition, and there is no reason we can’t achieve both.”
The cost of deploying solar energy has fallen 80 percent in the last decade while the cost of building large wind farms has fallen by 40 percent. With ongoing price drops in solar panels and wind turbines, clean energy developers can afford to deliver both environmental benefits as well as good jobs, worker safety, community benefits and protection of local environmental habitats.
The report will be distributed to clean energy developers, regulators, investors and purchasers.