To Save Coal Jobs, Trump Should Train Coal Workers to Perform Energy Audits, Install Solar and Maintain Wind Farms

On Thursday, May 17, Politico’s Morning Energy lead with the following snippet:

TRUMP PRESSURES PERRY FOR SOLUTIONS: Faced with calls from donors to live up to his campaign promises, President Donald Trump is keeping the pressure on Energy Secretary Rick Perry to come up with a plan to bail out struggling coal and nuclear plants…. So far, Perry hasn’t settled on a strategy — but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have options. 

A recent story by Bloomberg goes into more detail about the different options that Secretary Perry is weighing in order to save coal plants, as if coal plants were an endangered species that needs intervention to be kept alive.

And coal plants are an endangered species but we don’t need to keep them alive. Because one of the biggest reasons that Trump’s base is worried about retiring coal plants is the loss of jobs, and we have plenty of jobs for coal workers – they just happen to be doing something other than mining coal.

A recent report by the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI), established by former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and the National Association of State Energy Officials confirms that the energy sector as a whole grew 2 percent last year, which is .3 percent more than the national job growth percentage of 1.7 percent.

Notably the report shows that 67,000 people are employed in the energy efficiency sector and that solar employs 350,000 people. Solar employers said they expect to increase employment by 5 percent in 2018, according to the report. Energy efficiency employers project job growth of 9 percent in 2018.

Further, it’s been widely reported that the fastest growing job in America is Wind Energy Technician, a job that is needed to help operate and maintain the 50,000+ wind turbines spinning and creating energy today in the U.S. The wind sector expects to grow jobs by 3.7 percent in 2018, according to the EFI.

Jobs in transmission and distribution are also on the rise as are jobs in the bioenergy sector.  

What’s more, the companies that are hiring in these sectors report that they have difficulty finding qualified workers. They cite lack of experience, training or technical skills as reasons for this difficulty.

So why not simply start a federal program that trains out-of-work coal miners to perform energy efficiency audits and upgrades; to install solar; and to service wind farms? The workers will remain in energy but will be using their brains and muscles to move the new energy economy forward.

This seems like such a simple solution. Miners get jobs, Trump fulfills his campaign promise and the energy sector continues on its trajectory toward a cleaner, greener future.Credit: The 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment Report. 

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at

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