Climate change and our efforts to address it are among the most significant political struggles of our time. The stories we read about climate change are intense — worsening extreme weather and related impacts like more frequent wildfires and subsequent smoke, partisan bickering and stagnation, and rising temperatures in more ways than one. How can we see through to the other side and imagine the clean-energy future we need not just to survive but thrive?
Imagining the future can be a big leap for us — we don’t know what will happen and sometimes that scares us, too. Thankfully, the Washington State Legislature has approved and Gov. Jay Inslee is poised to sign landmark legislation to address our state’s climate impact and build investments for a clean, healthy and livable future for all of us.
The foundation to transition our economy is 100% clean-electricity legislation. SB 5116 will ensure that all our state’s electricity comes from 100% clean, efficient and affordable sources (like sun, wind and current hydro), phasing out coal by 2025. We’re one of the best-positioned states to help lead the clean-energy transition across the nation and show how transitioning off fossil fuels is more than just a dream — it’s possible, economically feasible and a launch point for new, good-paying, clean-energy jobs that contribute holistically to the lives of Washingtonians.
As we move to build and invest in new energy infrastructure to power our devices, our homes and our lives, this transition will also include a monumental investment in clean-energy jobs — manufacturing and erecting wind turbines and solar farms, retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, researching advancing technology for our electric grid, building innovative ways to store clean energy at scale for a rainy or non-windy day, and providing support for all these industries.
But one of the coolest things about clean energy is the variety of jobs. It’s not just folks installing solar panels, but also bookkeepers, local manufacturers, electrical workers, researchers and so many more — a whole variety of jobs like we have now in our workforce, but based on a clean, not fossil-based economy.
Research shows investments in renewable and energy efficiency infrastructure create three times more jobs than investments in fossil-fuel infrastructure. These jobs are good jobs, built to last, and can benefit everyone statewide. According to E2, a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors and professionals, nearly 83,000 Washingtonians work in clean-energy and related industries, including 8,500 in rural communities. As these jobs increase (we rank in the Top 10 nationwide), it’s critical that we also invest in the workers in those jobs.
SB 5116 does that by prioritizing projects that pay workers a living wage; incorporate apprenticeships; prefer local, women, minority and veteran businesses and workers; and encourage community workforce agreements in project development. Our growing renewable-energy economy can be one that combats climate change and deepens our societal commitment to a fairer, more just economy.
Imagining a Washington that benefits from transitioning our economy to clean energy is closer than we think. What does investing in 100% clean energy by 2045 hold for us? More clean energy in our communities. Healthier air and lower energy bills. Quieter cities with cleaner transportation. And jobs in our communities and in a clean-energy economy that is powering a livable future for all.