Solar Jobs Overtake Coal Mining Employment as Renewable Energy Use Grows

Solar-related employment in the United States now accounts for more jobs than coal mining.  According to the 2015 Economic Report of the President, about 174,000 American jobs are attributable to the solar energy industry.  The report also includes data for coal-related employment, which has dropped from a high of almost 400,000 jobs in the early 1950s, to fewer than 100,000 jobs today.

Solar employment

Employment in the solar industry grew over 85% between 2010 and 2014, reflecting the overall upward growth in solar production and consumption over that time.  In fact, between 2010 and 2014, solar energy consumption in the United States increased over 200%.   In contrast, coal consumption dropped 21%  between 2005 and 2013, and coal mining employment has also experienced a downward trend.

Coal Oil and Natural Gas employment

The relative growth and decline of production in solar and coal, respectively, are important for understanding trends.  But put into the context of the aggregate consumption, renewable energy is still a relatively small part of the country’s overall energy mix.  The graph below, included in the Economic Report of the President, depicts how dependent the United States remains on non-renewable fuels:

US Energy Consumption by Source, 2005-2013

Even as the use of relatively cleaner natural gas grows, other sources such a petroleum and coal still make up a large part of the energy mix.  Basic renewable technologies have been around for a while, even for as long as centuries, but renewable energy continue to represent a small portion of our current energy use.  However, we are increasingly developing a workforce that can build our renewable energy future.  Solar PV, wind, and other renewable technologies are becoming increasingly cost-competitive, and new jobs will spring forth to maintain the renewable power plants being built today.  For those concerned about energy security and building more quality jobs in the U.S., it seems that expanding renewable energy production offers a way to achieve both these goals.

One thought on “Solar Jobs Overtake Coal Mining Employment as Renewable Energy Use Grows

  1. This is merely the beginnings of the solar power revolution. While solar still provides a very small amount of our energy needs, this will undoubtedly change in the coming years.

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