US greenhouse gas emissions have fallen for the first time under the Biden Administration, but the reason why may be more cause for concern than celebration.
Research published by Carbon Monitor last week found that U.S. emissions fell by 5% primarily due to a warm winter in the Northeast. New England saw 10% fewer “heating degree” days, which cut demand for natural gas. That translated to a 20% reduction in American residential emissions so far in 2023.
The reductions illustrate new climate realities more so than policy accomplishments. Clean energy investments stemming from the Inflation Reduction Act are moving ahead at full steam, but their impact on carbon emissions is likely still a couple years away as the projects slowly come online.
Progress is still forthcoming on the “slowly” part. The biggest bottleneck for renewables in the United States are ongoing political entanglements with reforming federal permits to get renewables onto the grid. Lawmakers in Washington have yet to make any meaningful breakthroughs, but negotiations are apparently ongoing this week and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has publicly stated it as one of his priorities.
But elsewhere around the world, the Carbon Monitor data also point to an economic carbon feedback loop that is accelerating alongside the dangerous tipping points in the global ecosystem.
China’s emissions have grown steadily in the first half of this year, due in part to an unseasonably early heatwave that drove electricity demand for cooling. The heatwave came amidst a sustained drought that has limited hydroelectric power, forcing Chinese grid operators to call upon more coal and further spiking emissions that are almost certainly causing the drought.
That dynamic has so far been mirrored in India, where unbearable heat has forced states with ambitious clean energy projects to revert to burning coal to keep its citizens cool. The deadly heat waves have seen a rise in solar power, but a sharp decrease in wind and hydroelectric availability, which is further complicating expectations around how to transition to renewables in India.
Before artificial bottlenecks like permitting reform were around to impede the solar industry, a major concern was the relatively low efficiency of solar panels. That era was considered over once solar panels consistently hit 20% efficiency, and mass production began in earnest.
An innovation announced last week may blow past that mark as researchers in Germany and Saudi Arabia said they have pushed solar panel efficiency past a long sought-after goal of 30%.
Most solar cells made today convert roughly 23% of the sunlight they absorb into electricity, with the remaining energy mostly radiating off as waste heat.
A new cell design includes a layer of perovskite, a group of minerals known to act as semiconductors, on top of the silicon in present-day solar cells. The combination of silicon and perovskite led to 32.5% efficiencies over tests in a variety of conditions, potentially unlocking a new era in wide-scale solar panel development.
Perovskite has another critical benefit: it is cheap and abundant all over the world.
The importance of supply chain control became all too clear last week when China banned the export of critical minerals in microchip manufacturing to the United States over long-simmering tensions around Taiwan that even Barbie couldn’t escape.
Since China controls the supply and processing of the great majority of rare metals necessary for producing wind and solar components, renewable advocates have long feared China could employ the same tactics to throttle the energy transition.
Perovskites have been mined in Arkansas, Sweden, Germany and Russia, although many can be synthesized in labs. It’s still unclear if the quality of those lab-made crystals will be of a sufficient quality to boost solar panel efficiency at scale. If researchers prove they can, it could put an even bigger dent in the ecological impact of a promising climate technology.
The United States Department of Energy 2023 jobs report is out, and opportunities to work in renewable energy are going strong.
The top-line numbers are in keeping with the steady growth of renewables over the past several years: more than 114,000 clean-energy jobs were created in the U.S. last year, with a net addition of more than 22,000 from the year before. Nearly 87% of the net new jobs in the entire energy industry were related to renewables.
Geographic trends continued as well, as Texas and California dominated the growth of renewable energy jobs in their rapidly expanding solar and wind sectors.
The 340,000 jobs in solar energy still dwarf the wind energy job market, which currently represents less than half of that at roughly 125,000 jobs. But opportunities in wind energy are growing faster than in solar, especially in offshore wind, which grew by 20%.
Offshore wind growth is expected to continue with projects like the United States’ largest offshore wind farm to date having been announced in New Jersey just last week by the Biden Administration.
However, there may turn out to be too much of a good thing in the climate economy, as data released by Linkedin last week showed that opportunities to work in renewables may be outpacing the supply of skilled workers.
According to the platform, profiles with at least one green skill grew around 8.4%, compared with a 20% rise in green job postings. For its data, Linkedin defines green jobs to be roles that “include climate action objectives such as removing pollution and preserving natural resources.”
That tracks with findings from research done by Rewiring America earlier this year pointing to a shortage of electricians that could pose problems for following through with the burgeoning demand for climate technologies like heat pumps and EV stations.
Of course, if you’re subscribed to this newsletter then you’ve already taken the first step to finding your own climate job.
Check out some of the latest featured jobs below. If you don't see anything that speaks to you, you can always go to Climatebase to explore thousands of other opportunities.
“Pearl is a national start-up that certifies high-performing homes: homes with efficient heating and cooling, solar, smart home devices, resilient features and much more. Pearl’s comprehensive certification drives demand for these improvements by capturing their value for resale and appraisal, benefiting homeowners and the contractors, builders, raters, real estate professionals, and public entities who serve them. Pearl's products are de-risked, ...”
“Found Energy is building clean energy delivery platforms capable of replacing fossil fuels for heavy industries ranging from aluminum smelting (3% of global CO2 emissions) to fertilizer production (2% of global CO2 emissions) to maritime shipping (3% of global CO2 emissions). Building off technology developed at MIT that enables metallic aluminum to split water, our energy delivery systems safely generate ...”
“The Climate Leadership Initiative (CLI) connects philanthropists to the resources they need to advance a healthy and more equitable world. When working with CLI, philanthropists will get started quickly, receive tailored guidance on high-impact solutions, and engage with our network of peers and climate experts. Founded by leading climate philanthropists and funders, CLI advises on giving opportunities without charging for its services. ...”
“DitchCarbon helps enterprises close the gap between their sustainability goals and the daily actions that drive their supply chain emissions (Scope 3 - Category 1). We are doing this by building the world’s climate data repository - aggregating emissions data from millions of companies and products - and embedding that data wherever decision makers make decisions via our APIs. Join us to ...”
“The Energy and Policy Institute is a watchdog organization that exposes attacks on clean energy by fossil fuel and utility interests through investigative research and analysis. By disseminating our research to media, allies, and decision makers, we seek to disrupt fossil fuel-funded misinformation, separate polluters from policymakers, and accelerate the transition to a clean economy. ...”
“The Horizon Climate Initiative is a nonprofit philanthropic partner that works with consumer, environmental, and community groups and with other funders around the country to use cost-saving energy market reforms to address the causes and impact of climate change. HCI is dedicated to bending down the arc of greenhouse gas pollution by ending practices that favor fossil fuel generation at the ...”
“Reunion's mission is to accelerate investment into renewable energy. We are building a marketplace to connect buyers and sellers of renewable energy tax credits to easily raise money for wind, solar, and battery storage projects. Project developers can easily access pools of capital from high quality corporate investors for their project portfolios. Corporate investors can buy tax credits to achieve a ...”
“The Carbonauts are on a mission to change the world by inspiring and educating millions of people in order to shift our culture to a sustainable one and help our species flourish in the beautiful green future that is just around the corner. We’re a great, diverse team and work with terrific clients. We love being a force for inspiration ...”
“We make grid batteries from used EVs with intelligent robotics to electrify the world. Our mission is to scale battery reuse as the largest source of the next billion batteries. The problem is that batteries are challenging to reuse today because supply is constrained by expensive shipping, non-standard testing, and dangerous disassembly by hand. We ship used batteries, test how good they ...”
“The Climate Clock is a simple, viral tool being used by activists and policy-makers around the world: a clock that visibly counts down the time remaining to prevent global warming rising above 1.5°C (our “DEADLINE”), while simultaneously tracking our progress on key systemic solutions (our “LIFELINES”). By showing us what we need to do by when, the Clock keeps the ...”
“The global community for founders solving the world's biggest social & environmental problems with profitable business models. ...”
“Earth Finance is a mission-driven startup working with organizations and investors to accelerate their transition to a low-carbon economy. We combine strategy consulting, which provides climate impact analysis, transition planning, and new business model creation and deployment, with capital, which we invest in the businesses and technologies we need to reduce & remove carbon and adapt to a low-carbon future. ...”
“GreenBiz Group is a media and events company that accelerates the just transition to a clean economy. Through events that galvanize, stories that amplify, peer networks that bond and industry-leading analysis, we define markets and advance opportunities at the intersection of business, technology and sustainability. We are a passionate team of people that builds and empowers communities to confront the ...”
“ev.energy is a technology company on a mission to decarbonize mobility. Recently named “World’s Best Energy Start-up,” we are a team of former management consultants, data scientists and software developers working on an industry-leading algorithm that obtains real-time data from utilities to charge electric vehicles with the cheapest, greenest energy available while supporting the long-term stability and resilience of the ...”
They are hiring across the following role departments:
“Voltus is a fully remote clean energy technology platform. Our mission is to be the Distributed Energy Platform that fulfills the promise of the energy transition. The Voltus Platform connects any distributed energy resource to any energy market across the US and Canada, providing flexibility, reliability, and resilience to the grid. Want to be part of a team that is laser ...”
They are hiring across the following role departments:
“Welcome to the future of energy We’re a leading energy technology company providing a better experience for our customers through transparency, automation and simplicity. Better for the planet, through real long-term investment in renewable generation and a low CO2 future. We make energy green and flexible for consumers, with fair and transparent pricing. Through our home developed platform, cloud-based billing, ...”
“Patch is building the infrastructure for a sustainable economy by enabling gigatonne scale carbon removal. With Patch, companies can embed climate action into their own products, neutralizing the carbon impact of everyday transactions like shipping, travel and financial services, or neutralize the unavoidable emissions within their operations and supply chain. From an API-integration to direct purchase, Patch is the carbon ...”
“OhmConnect alerts you and your smart home when dirty, expensive power plants switch on nearby and pays you for reducing your electricity use. ...”
“Carbonfuture helps companies and organizations worldwide on their path to true net zero. As an online marketplace and fully digitized platform for high-quality and effective carbon sink credits, we offer certificates that not only avoid CO2 emissions, but actively remove them out of the atmosphere. Our uncompromisingly scientific approach as well as seamless, tamper-proof supply chain tracking, precise sink modeling, ...”
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