The clean energy industry — which includes energy efficiency, renewable energy production, clean fuels, and more — is not only good for Alaska’s economy but also is helping to protect and preserve our abundant natural resources. Lowering carbon emissions, reducing energy consumption and eliminating energy waste are all worthy goals, but each relies on a certain level of commitment from businesses and citizens as end users of energy as well as from our government.
While the company for which I am CEO and president, Arctic Energy Inc., focuses primarily on combined heat and power technology as a clean energy solution, there are myriad other technologies and techniques in the clean energy space that are advancing renewable energy solutions to lower emissions while providing much-needed jobs for Alaskans.
It is important, however, to realize that many of these jobs have been lost over the past several months. For the sake of a cleaner energy future — and a stronger economy — for all Alaskans, it is vital that we do everything we can to get these hardworking men and women back on the job as soon as possible. To do that, we need a little assistance from our elected officials in Washington, D.C.
Like just about every other industry, America’s clean energy sector was hit hard by the business closures and near economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, Alaska is still down more than 1,300 jobs in the clean energy space — and that’s after having added jobs in June. Nationally, more than a half-million clean energy workers are still out of a job, representing a 15% reduction in our nation’s clean energy workforce, which was previously a shining star in our economy and boasted 3.3 million workers at the end of 2019.
All is not lost, however.
We can see this in the congressional response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite significant legislative relief for impacted small businesses and residents, there has been no mention of investing in America’s clean energy economy. Not only is this shortsighted, but also it ignores the very real potential the clean energy industry has in helping power our economic recovery.
Congress should act quickly to infuse funding in infrastructure spending that supports and protects Alaska’s — and America’s — clean energy workforce. Doing so will bolster our economy while allowing our country to maintain its role as a global leader in reducing carbon emissions and protecting our environment.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Republicans, should be commended for their previous support of smart energy solutions that create jobs and strengthen our economy. They should also both continue working toward these goals by working with their colleagues in Congress to pass pro-growth legislation that secures our nation’s clean energy industry, supports American innovation, and gets Alaskans back to work. The sooner, the better.
Greg Porter is a lifelong Alaskan, University of Alaska Fairbanks alumni, and the current president and CEO of Arctic Energy Inc.