US renewable energy is growing: solar is larger employer than fossil fuels

US renewable energy is growing: solar is larger employer than fossil fuels

Giacomo Maniscalco
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In 2016 the solar industry employed 374,000 people, beating both the coal and oil & gas industries. A Greenpeace report rates Apple, Google and Facebook the greenest tech companies, while Amazon lags behind

In 2016, solar created more jobs in the USA than oil, coal and natural gas combined, according to a US State Department report. Specifically, the US Energy and Employment Report states that nearly 374,000 people, or 43% of the electric power generation workforce, are employed by the solar industry. The figure is significantly larger than fossil fuels, which in 2016 employed 187,000 workers, or 22% of the sector’s employees. In fact, renewables have seen strong job growth with solar leading the way with 73,615 new jobs, followed by wind with 24,650.
Many large companies have embraced the renewables boom as part of their sustainability policy and along these lines Greenpeace recently published its ranking of tech companies and their use of renewable energy. The report - "Clicking Clean: Who is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet?" - names Apple, Google and Facebook as the world’s greenest tech companies, well on their way to achieving their goal of creating 100% clean energy-powered data centers. Not everyone scored high on the Greenpeace report card though. Amazon Web Services and Netflix fared worse, for example. Luca Iacoboni, director of Greenpeace Italy’s Climate and Energy campaign, explained the results: "In spite of the messaging of their advertising, Amazon continues to keep its customers in the dark on its energy decision-making. This is worrying, especially considering how the company is expanding to regions in which polluting energies predominate."
As for the streaming giant, the scolding by Greenpeace has to do with sustainable commitments from last year which were not carried out. Netflix, the report asserts, is likely turning to carbon offsets or unbundled renewable energy credits instead of increasing investments in renewable energy. Iacoboni adds: "Like Apple, Facebook and Google, Netflix has one of the largest carbon footprints on the web and plays a key role in deciding how to power it. Netflix needs to take responsibility for ensuring that its growth is powered by renewable energy and not by fossil fuels, and it needs to be a leader on this issue."