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Clean Energy Workforce Development Amid COVID-19

The economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic have left workers throughout the U.S. filing for unemployment. The clean energy industry is no exception. At the start of 2020, clean energy employment increased for the fifth straight year with the workforce accounting for one out of every 50 U.S. workers, according to E2, Environmental Entrepreneurs. When the pandemic hit the U.S. in March, it wiped out 106,000 clean energy jobs and deterred much of the progress that was made in the industry in 2019.

The clean energy workforce encompasses electricians, HVAC technicians, various construction workers, renewable energy contractors, and more. As states across the U.S. shut down unessential businesses, work on the clean energy front has slowed significantly on both the residential and commercial sides. While most energy audits, weatherization programs, and equipment installations have been put on hold, the impacts and policies greatly differ by state, region, and municipality.

With project pipelines drying up, companies have had to lay off valuable employees. According to the unemployment data analysis, nearly 70,000 energy efficiency workers, 16,000 renewable energy workers, and 12,000 clean vehicle workers have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. As we adjust to our new normal, advancing workforce development has never been more important. The uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftereffects leave experts wondering how the industry will change within the next several months. Factors such as when work will restart, how budgeting decisions will be made, and the state of the wavering economy leave workers with a lot of questions.

The Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC) is a public-private partnership between 360 Energy Group and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Our SEDAC team has expertise in the advancement of the energy efficiency workforce. Through extensive research, SEDAC has established a few tactics to boost workforce development. These strategies could become immensely helpful in recovering from the 2020 loss. The list includes:

  • Promoting energy and energy efficiency literacy. To attract students to energy careers, we must increase energy literacy and introduce potential energy efficiency careers, according to the National Energy Foundation (NEF).

  • Helping students explore career options. This may include highlighting the benefits of an energy efficiency career, sharing stories about how these careers have helped people thrive, and providing the necessary resources to explore this career pathway.

  • Engaging in K-12 outreach. Providing hands on experiences in the form of guest speakers, class projects, job shadowing, and even high school internships may attract students to a career in energy efficiency.

For questions regarding workforce development or to get started on a new project, contact us at or 312-265-3971.


Runyon, J. (2020, April 16). Clean energy job losses mount as COVID-19's economic toll continues. Retrieved from

Energy efficiency workforce: Raising awareness. (2020, March 10). Retrieved from

5-Year Report. (n.d.). Retrieved from


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