Renewable energy is energy produced from sources that are naturally replenished that do not run out. Renewable energy sources include geothermal resources, hydrogen, sunlight, water, and wind. These natural resources can be converted to use for electricity generation, space and water heating and cooling, and transportation.
In 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that renewable energy generates about 20% of all U.S. electricity, and that percentage continues to grow. By 2023, solar and wind added more than 60% of the utility-scale generating capacity to the U.S. power grid (46% from solar, 17% from wind). With hundreds of billions of dollars of investments poised to flow into solar and other clean energy industries following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and with increasing international investment in clean energies, the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that solar PV jobs could grow from 4 million to 15 million globally by 2050.
The transition to renewables is boosting employment opportunities not just in the US, but worldwide. According to the World Economic Forum, in 2021 renewable energy jobs accounted for around 40% of total energy jobs. Solar was the fastest-growing technology in electricity generation, adding 17,212 jobs and growing 5.4%.
The advantages of renewable energy are numerous and positively impact the three pillars of sustainability: environment, social and economic stability. Benefits of renewable energy include enhanced reliability, security, and resilience of the nation’s power grid, job creation throughout renewable energy industries, reduction of carbon emissions and air pollution from energy production, and increased affordability, as many types of renewable energy are cost-competitive with traditional energy sources.
As the primary purveyors of education & training for skilled crafts technicians, community colleges play a significant role in preparing workers for the growing renewable energy sector. Nonetheless, colleges do not need to create new programs. Community colleges can future-proof legacy programs by infusing emerging technologies into traditional programs. And colleges can become better stewards in their community through changes in campus energy management.