Feb 5, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Wind and solar would struggle to replace coal-mining jobs

Amy Harder, author of Generate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A global transition is underway from coal to renewable energy, but a corresponding jobs shift is far less certain.

Driving the news: Wind-industry jobs aren’t a “feasible” replacement for local coal-mining jobs in the world’s four biggest coal-producing nations, and although solar is better situated than wind, it would require a massive buildout, a new peer-reviewed report finds.

Why it matters: As the world moves to cleaner kinds of energy, concern is growing about what happens to the people employed in heavy-polluting industries, especially coal. Indeed, such a progression is already rapidly underway in America.

How it works: The report, published last month in the Environmental Research Letters journal, analyzed the wind and solar resources of coal-mining regions in the U.S., China, India and Australia.

  • Noting that most coal miners don’t migrate when they’re laid off, the report sought to answer the question of whether renewable-energy jobs could be created in the same areas where coal is mined.
  • It concluded that it’s just not windy enough in those countries’ coal-mining regions for wind energy to be a viable replacement.
  • Solar was better situated for replacing coal-mining jobs in Australia, India and America, but not in China.

By the numbers... In the U.S.:

  • Nearly two-thirds — 62% — of coal-mining areas are suitable for solar power.
  • To ensure miners in those areas could transition to solar, 143 gigawatts of solar power — or nearly three times America’s current capacity of solar — would be needed.
  • That would mean at least two-thirds of current coal miners could transition to solar-energy jobs — assuming the buildout and necessary retraining — occurs.
  • Wyoming is the only state in the U.S. where wind jobs could be a feasible option for coal miners.

Go deeper: Coal miners being trained to work in alternative energy

Go deeper

Virginia governor announces removal of Richmond's Robert E. Lee statue

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Thursday that the state will remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond's historic Monument Avenue.

Why it matters: It's a watershed moment for Virginia, which has been at the center of a years-long national debate about whether Confederate monuments should be displayed publicly. That discussion reached a boiling point when protests about a statue of Lee in Charlottesville turned violent in 2017.

RNC expands convention search across the Sun Belt

Donald Trump, Mike Pence and their families on the last night of the Republican National Convention in Ohio in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images.

The Republican National Committee is planning site visits over the next 10 days to more than a half-dozen cities — across the South and into Texas and Arizona — as it scrambles for a new convention host, people familiar with the internal discussions tell Axios.

Driving the news: The RNC's executive committee voted Wednesday night to allow most of the convention to move — with only a smaller, official portion remaining in Charlotte — after North Carolina's governor said the coronavirus pandemic would mean a scaled-back event with social distancing and face coverings.

Oil faces tough road back from coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Oil companies in the battered shale patch are starting to bring back some production as prices climb, but a new report underscores how the pandemic is taking a heavy financial toll despite signs of revival.

Driving the news: Fourteen North American producers have filed for bankruptcy thus far during the second quarter, per a tally from the law firm Haynes and Boone, which closely tracks the sector's finances.