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People often assume that protecting the climate requires an economic sacrifice. But the state of California is proving that switching to clean energy can grow the economy.

A recent study from the University of California, Berkeley, found that California’s investment in clean energy projects has generated thousands of jobs for mostly blue-collar workers.

Betony Jones
Betony Jones

Jones: “It’s not just about jobs, it’s about what kind of jobs the green economy is creating.”

That’s Betony Jones, a co-author of the study. She says California’s renewable energy industry created high-quality jobs. Many of them provide middle-class wages, benefits, pension plans, and are union-protected.

And because renewable energy production is typically located in rural regions – which tend to have high unemployment – many of the jobs were in some of the state’s poorest areas.

Jones says that specific policies laid the groundwork for this surge of job creation. For example, California requires that a large portion of its clean energy come from facilities built in-state.

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Jones: “The way you design policy can lead to the creation of good jobs.”

In other words, given the right legislation, what worked in California could work elsewhere.

Reporting credit: Peter Lapin/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image graphic credit: Created by David McCarthy.

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Diana Madson

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...