Josh Harding, left, and Nathan Lee and Cathy Gleason have all shifted in recent years from careers in oil and gas to careers in renewable energy. (Harding photo courtesy of him; Lee photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG; Gleeson photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Recording/SCNG)
Stephanie Auld first noticed this trend before the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020.
This past February, Auld, who helps oversee hiring for Los Angeles-based green energy company Afantos, participated in a conference in Austin, Texas, for women who have worked in renewable energy. I volunteered for mock interviews and resume training, assuming it would greatly help others in the clean energy field who wanted to change positions or companies. Instead, she said, nearly every woman she approached was in traditional energy but was seeking advice about pivoting to a job in the renewable energy sector.
It is a trend that is only expected to increase.
With new local, state, federal and international mandates aimed at reducing carbon emissions, the latest DOE records show that fossil fuel sectors continued to lose jobs even as the pandemic eased. Petroleum lost 31,593 jobs from 2020 to 2024, down 6.4%, while coal jobs fell 11.8%.
At the same time, the energy sector in general has grown faster than the national workforce. All renewable energy divisions added jobs that year, with jobs in geothermal, hydro, wind, and solar rising 2.8% to 5.4%.
When the next national energy jobs report comes out this summer, experts expect to see bigger jumps in the renewable energy sectors for 2024. Thanks in large part to last summer’s congressional passage of the Reducing Inflation Act, which appropriated $369 billion to combat climate change.
In the first six months after the law was passed, clean energy companies announced 101,036 new jobs in 31 states, according to February analysis by the non-profit Climate Power Group. Over the next decade, public and private investments arising from the financing package are expected to create approximately 912,000 jobs annually, or about 9 million by 2030, according to Stady from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
However, not all of this financing is closed. As negotiations on the federal debt limit continue, Republican lawmakers go back On tax provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that favor clean energy projects.
But Rep. Mike Levine, D-San Juan Capistrano, who worked to bring green jobs to Southern California before his election, argues that tax provisions for renewables make sense for the environment and the economy. Levine was killed research From the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator that says every $1 million spent on renewable energy creates 7.5 full-time jobs, nearly three times as many jobs as the same 2.7 fossil fuel investments produce.
“In terms of subsidies, or beneficial tax policies for renewable energy, I would just point to the generous tax policies and subsidies that have gone to the fossil fuel industry for decades,” he said.
“We’re just looking for a level playing field.”
Even before such funding and workers’ expectations emerge, Auld said she rarely hears concerns about job security or stability from workers looking to switch from conventional to renewable energy. Instead, she said she often gets questions about how salaries compare, what skills are imparted and how people who already work in clean energy might envision those coming from the fossil fuel sectors.
Since renewable energy is still a relatively new field, Auld noted that people often come with work experience in different energy sectors. She said that Avantus had maybe five or six people who came directly from traditional energy. But she suspects that a majority of the roughly 200 people on their team have some background in fossil fuels.
“We are all trying to achieve the same goal, which is to provide enough energy for the world and make it stable, reliable and safe,” she said.
In terms of skill transfer, Auld said there is a great deal of overlap between conventional and renewable energy. Companies like hers often provide on-the-job training to fill any gaps. And since renewable energy companies compete with traditional energy companies for talent, Auld said they are conducting studies to make sure salaries are comparable.
As this trend accelerates, we speak with three people who have made the leap in recent years from working in oil and gas to working for clean energy companies in Southern California. Here are their stories.
Exxon engineer who transitioned to clean energy gives career advice: ‘Take a leap’
A white-collar refinery worker trading oil for biofuel
Permit expert’s career shifts from oil to clean energy to please hippie parents