Time is forever divided into before Covid and now, regardless of the topic, and the clean tech sector in Austin is no exception. As plans are created and implemented for economic recovery, there is a debate over how to stimulate the recovery in ways that are expedient for the immediate future and sustainable in the long term.
In an opinion piece in the Austin Biz Journal, Nathan Ryan, CEO of Blue Sky Partners and a commissioner for Austin’s Economic Prosperity Commission, makes the case that Texas will recover better and faster by making investments in the clean tech sector. He states that Texas lost double the number of clean sector jobs that were gained over the previous three years. Even though the jobs are starting to come back, at the current rate it will take 15 years just to recover what was lost.
Prior to the pandemic, Texas was a leader in clean tech. Second only to California in the number of jobs in the sector, it is also home to significant research and development in diverse forms of renewable energy and energy storage. Austin Energy is consistently ranked by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as one of the top green public power companies in the nation.
Jobs in clean tech industries are more stable and pay better wages than the national average, according to Forbes. Clean tech jobs are more often unionized, which also results in better pay and benefits, and a steady, reliable work schedule. While oil and gas jobs might provide a high salary, they are tied to the price of a barrel of oil, and workers are laid off when demand is light. Many of the big oil and gas companies are laying off workers globally to weather the current pandemic related slowdown.
Texas, along with a handful of other states, added some jobs back in July, but not enough to make a dent in the number of unemployed clean energy workers. However, the Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance has released a report that shows that stimulus money invested in this sector would “return a six fold return on investment, increase tax revenues, create 2 million jobs and deliver billions in annual savings to customers.” In addition, corporate buyers are looking for clean energy solutions to meet their energy needs, and are demanding that states and utilities provide the option for solar, wind and sustainable energy.
With the demand for clean energy, and the need to create good, steady jobs, and desire to combat climate change, Texas has the raw materials for economic recovery. What is needed now is stimulus investment to get things moving the in the right direction.