Cleantech, short for Clean Technology, is any process, product, or service that reduces negative environmental impacts through significant energy efficiency improvements, the sustainable use of resources or environmental protection activities, according to Wikipedia. Some other terms that are used interchangeably are greentech and environmental technology.
Prior to the pandemic, cleantech was a prime employer, with the number of cleantech workers rising every year for the five previous years. But industries under the cleantech umbrella have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. 600,000 clean energy jobs have been lost in March and April of 2020.
Despite this alarming statistic, advocates say that they expect the clean energy sector to play a key role in the nation’s economic recovery. So far, economic stimulus has not included clean energy, but the industries hope that the impending climate change crisis will spur the government to relent and provide economic relief. While this short term relief will be welcomed, the long term prospects are bright.
California is particularly invested in green technologies because of their rampant air pollution and an out of control wildfire season, on top of the global pandemic. Clean transportation is an area of particular interest. Breathing dirty air makes one more susceptible to dying of COVID-19, and automobiles are the main cause of air pollution in California cities. An executive order to ban gasoline-powered engines by 2035 is currently in the court system, but is an attempt to combat climate change. Clean vehicles create jobs in related industries, too, which will be a boon to the economy.
Clean tech workers span a variety of job titles and occupations with different skillsets. The workers in the field are supported by a variety of office staff, accountants, engineers, and IT specialists. These jobs are also not just in the cities, they are part of rural economies. Small startups and large corporations employ cleantech workers in varying capacities.
In Texas, some forward thinking cleantech companies are targeting laid off oil and gas workers. The skillsets are the same or similar, and cleantech would love to gain the industry knowledge held by these often long term employees to benefit their business.
While most industries have been hard hit by the current pandemic related economic slump, this may end up being a positive force for cleantech. Young talent is less interested in oil and gas, and generally more interested in cleantech, which they see as the future. Climate change was already moving the energy industry to research and develop greener, cleaner forms of energy, and some states were in the process of transitioning or at least researching the transition to various clean energies. The pandemic is accelerating that transition and as jobs recover, they will inevitably recover well in cleantech industries.