‘400 years of oppression’ should affect NJ renewable energy policy, advocates argue
TRENTON – Economic benefits from New Jersey’s pivot to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar will outweigh expected losses in sectors such as natural gas and oil heating, says a new report from the Applied Economics Clinic.
A companion report also issued Tuesday says steps need to be taken to ensure those benefits are distributed equitably, as early on access to those jobs had disproportionately fallen to white men.
Jobs in NJ from renewable energy
The report projects that in 2045, the state will have an additional 9,600 offshore wind jobs, 6,300 in energy efficiency and over 4,000 each in solar and energy storage, beyond what would happen in a business-as-usual approach. But there will be over 2,700 fewer jobs in oil heating.
“We estimate that New Jersey’s clean energy transition will result in an average of about 11,000 more jobs per year between 2025 and 2050 than would be created without it,” said Elizabeth Stanton, Applied Economics Clinic director and senior economist.
Economic benefits to NJ from renewables
The report said the state’s energy policies would generate $34 billion in economic activity through 2050. Debra Coyle, executive director of the New Jersey Work Environment Council, said the job gains outpace the losses by 6.6 times – and are also good-paying, less-hazardous jobs.
Coyle said it’s also an environmental imperative.
“As you look at New Jersey, we emit 97 million metric tons of carbon equivalents. This is from 2018,” she said. “If we were a country, we’d be the 30th largest per capita emissions producer in the world.”
Which communities will benefit from renewable energy?
The second report lays out the steps needed to ensure the workers in the new jobs reflect the state demographically. Marcus Sibley, chairman of the NAACP’s New Jersey Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, said direct and intentional steps must be taken to make sure the workforce is diverse.
“We have an opportunity here to change the trajectory of lives today as we fight for equitable jobs,” Sibley said.
Black residents make up 15% of New Jersey’s population but hold 9% of clean-energy jobs. Hispanics make up 21% of the population but hold 16% of the jobs. Women make up 51% of New Jersey’s population but hold 25% of the industries’ jobs.
“We want to have conversations to say: We have to have X many jobs of local people. We want X many jobs of Black people. We want to be intentional,” Sibley said.
“Some people may not feel that’s fair, but I would beg to think that 400 years of oppression and disrespect and exploitation and rape and lynch and murder is a reason that you can be a little unfair sometimes. I would venture to say that.”
Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
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