Veterans and Clean Energy Jobs: A Growing Sector
The 2019 Veterans Advanced Energy Summit hosted by the Atlantic Council is taking place tomorrow with exciting programs, lectures, and panels to educate veterans about opportunities in the clean energy industry. It also casts an important focus on the relationship between the military, its active-duty members and veterans, and clean energy. CRES Senior Advisor and former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte will take part in the programming, and CRES Forum is a proud sponsor of the event.
Veterans are aware, perhaps more than anyone else, of how dependent national security is on reliable energy. The U.S. military is one of the biggest consumers of energy in the world. It is important that the military has sustainable and reliable energy sources, not just for environmental reasons, but for combat readiness and important mission capabilities. For example, microgrids powered by solar energy can help support forward operations in remote areas. Becoming energy efficient and responsible is more than just being “green”—it’s patriotic.
When veterans return home, they look for ways to use their skills and training in civilian life. Veterans enter the market with highly technical skills, experience working with complex machinery, and an understanding of the importance of working on a team. All of these skills are relevant for jobs in the energy sector, especially clean energy industries. Currently, veterans comprise approximately 11 percent of U.S. energy jobs. It’s not just wind and solar however, natural gas and nuclear industries have been a big employer of veterans in the past year.
The U.S. Department of Energy has also recognized the value veterans bring to careers in energy. In 2014, they established the Solar Ready Vets program, which helps to prepare veterans for careers in the solar industry. Veterans can work in installation, sales, operations, or as inspectors to name just a few opportunities. The program is still running and is now administered by private military bases.
The Solar Foundation is also working to create a solar veteran workforce. They received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Technologies Office to support new careers in the solar industry. The foundation is working to create apprenticeships for transitioning veterans and partner with colleges to train veterans.
The Solar Energy Initiative Association reported that the solar industry alone employs over 21,000 veterans—which is approximately 9 percent of jobs in the solar industry. With increasing awareness and training opportunities, these numbers can only continue to climb.
Solar isn’t the only clean energy industry investing in veterans. The American Wind Energy Association has established similar outreach training programs to help transition veterans to careers in the wind industry. One story of a veteran earlier this year serves to remind veterans of the opportunity that the clean energy industry offers not only for job security, but for a career path.
“I kind of laughed at him at first,” Mr. Thompson said. “I don’t like heights.” But he found that many of the skills he’d mastered working on helicopters in the Persian Gulf were similar to those in turbines.
He applied, and got hired. The first time his fellow employees had him climb the ladder to the top of a tower, he said, “I was still in pretty good shape” from the military, so “the climb didn’t bother me,” as it does many first timers.
And then there was that view. “I looked out at the top,” he said, “and decided that was going to be my career.”
As the Veterans Energy Summit commences tomorrow, and American Wind Week continues this week, it’s a great time to take a look at not only how our nation’s veterans have contributed to supporting national security as active military members, but how they continue to work toward the same goal by using their skills and training in the clean energy sector. We are thankful to all our veterans for their service and continued work to keep our country safe, secure, and (energy) independent.