Coal Shrinking - Solar Growing
While the solar sector is currently experiencing exponential growth and opportunity, the coal industry is seeing an opposite situation. Government regulations and lowered costs of renewable energy and natural gas are driving a nationwide transition away from coal (over 187 coal plants have already been closed to date.) SNL Energy reported that in 2014 coal mining jobs had fallen 8.3 percent to 79,658. As the movement away from coal-powered energy continues, what are the options for the coal industry employees? One option is job retraining programs in renewable energy fields.
According to The Solar Foundation, there are now nearly 174,000 solar workers in the U.S., a more than 20% increase over employment totals in 2014. About a third of them are in California, followed by Arizona, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. The wind power industry employed another 80,000 or so workers.
Bi-Partisan Support for Job Training
Different programs and initiatives exist for coal miners whose jobs are in jeopardy. Part of Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 includes $20 million specifically for laid-off coal miners and power plant employees to provide re-employment services, job training and other support to help transition to jobs in other fields. Community colleges in places such as West Virginia are offering free classes, through federal grants, to laid-off miners for job training classes. And working across the aisle, Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced legislation that would provide work transition assistance to people who lost their jobs in the coal industry.
"While there are strongly held views in Congress on climate change and energy policy, there should be no disagreement that America has an obligation to ensure displaced workers in the coal industry transition successfully to good jobs in other sectors," Welch said.