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Dallas Morning News: Can clean energy help plug the hole in the oil patch? ‘The transition is well underway,’ says advocate

Posted by Mitchell Schnurman on Nov 3, 2020

The Dallas Morning News reported on significant growth of clean energy jobs in context of the declining oil sector in Texas, quoting TAEBA's Suzanne Bertin and TAEBA's Texas Jobs Facts. Read excerpts below and the full piece here (sub. req.), also published by several Texas papers and Chicago Tribune.

Over 230,000 Texans work in energy efficiency and solar, wind and nuclear power. That sector is holding up better than oil and gas. Last week, Exxon Mobil said it would eliminate about 14,000 jobs, including 1,900 in the U.S. That follows big layoffs at Shell, BP, Chevron, Schlumberger and more in what a consulting firm described as a “great compression.” Texas is feeling it in a big way: 1 in 4 oil and gas jobs have disappeared in the past 12 months, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics...

But outside the oil patch, there are some promising trends in energy. In Texas and elsewhere, investors have been making big bets on solar and wind power, storage batteries, energy efficiency and the like. This so-called advanced energy sector had been growing jobs at twice the rate of the Texas labor market -- at least before the pandemic.

Over 230,000 Texans were working in advanced energy this summer, according to industry estimates. That’s more workers than in real estate, trucking and grocery stores in the state...

“The trend is clear,” said Suzanne Bertin, managing director of the Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance. "Investors are putting their money behind wind, solar and storage. And more customers, especially corporate buyers, are demanding these technologies.

“The transition is well underway,” she said, referring to the shift toward cleaner energy...

Texas easily leads all states in wind power with roughly three times more capacity than Iowa and Oklahoma in 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Texas ranks 4th in solar capacity, and it’s coming on fast. In the first half of 2020, Texas added more solar than any state, said the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Lots of storage batteries are also in the Texas pipeline, and their potential capacity far exceeds the proposals for new natural gas plants. Bertin calls storage a game-changer because it helps fill the gaps when wind and solar power are unreliable. 

The pandemic has had a major impact on the energy business, including renewables. By June, the solar industry had lost over 100,000 jobs nationwide, erasing five years of gains, according to the solar association.

In Texas, the advanced energy segment lost 24,000 jobs by July, Bertin said. That’s a decline of 9.5%, but it’s far smaller than the drop in oil and gas jobs. And Bertin believes advanced energy can help drive the state’s economic recovery.

She pointed to Tesla’s new $1.1 billion factory under construction in Austin. Tesla will build electric vehicles and batteries and create at least 5,000 jobs.

Many other companies, especially in manufacturing, are drawn to Texas because it generates so much clean energy — and has more coming. Most Fortune 500 companies have adopted sustainability goals, and Texas often can provide 100% of their power from renewable sources.

“This is an opportunity for Texas to really continue its energy leadership,” Bertin said. “By investing more in advanced energy, we’ll be able to bring manufacturing to the state and export those technologies beyond Texas...”

 Read the entire Dallas Morning News piece here.

Topics: AEE In The News