The post-pandemic recovery provides a unique opportunity to change the way we as a society approach environmental justice, clean energy and climate solutions. It’s an approach that has played a significant role at Nexamp since our founding nearly 15 years ago. I believe it’s part of our DNA as a company. Right from the beginning, we designed our community solar program to be simple, and more importantly, to be accessible to all people, regardless of income or demographics. That’s the only way we are going to address the climate crisis while improving energy equity and giving consumers more control over their carbon footprints.
Under the current administration, renewable energy has an important role to play in our national recovery and infrastructure modernization. Within these infrastructure improvement plans come improved access to clean energy, a more reliable and resilient grid, and much-needed employment opportunities for workers at all levels.
As a leading renewable energy generator and community solar provider, Nexamp knows community solar is well positioned to make clean energy more accessible. Community solar is as much about community as it is about clean energy. It’s about giving the power to shape our energy future to community members who know their local needs better than anyone else. That’s why we designed the Nexamp community solar program so that diverse communities can easily access clean energy and the environmental benefits of solar energy generation.
But our commitment to our communities extends well beyond building community solar facilities. It includes the economic opportunities available to landowners, local businesses and individual workers.
Employment numbers across the board, including in the solar industry, took a hit in 2020 as the country quarantined and many businesses closed or altered their everyday operations. Nevertheless, the post-pandemic recovery is seeing a rebound in employment, particularly in clean energy jobs.
Based on data recently published by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a board Nexamp joined in 2018, the U.S. solar industry employs over 230k workers as of 2020. If the current administration 2035 clean energy target is to be met, the solar industry will need to quadruple its workforce over the next decade and a half, which means a significant need for electrical engineers, maintenance and repair workers, sales representatives, electricians, installers, construction and operations managers, and more.
Here is what excites me, as the solar workforce grows, it is becoming increasingly diverse, with 30% of workers identifying as female, a 39% increase since 2015. Other demographic groups that have seen employment gains in the solar sector since 2015 include a 92% increase for Hispanic or Latino workers, an 18% increase for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and a 73% increase for Black or African American workers. Among veterans, the solar industry outpaces other sectors of the economy, where 8.7% of the solar workforce are veterans, compared to 5.7% in the overall economy. We are working hard to ensure that the Nexamp team reflects this diversity at every level.
Diversity, equity and inclusion—these words, and the weight of them, are at the forefront of the Nexamp mission. Being a company that is deeply rooted in our values, we believe in fostering long-term relationships and making meaningful changes to how we care for our team members, attract new talent and acquire customers who want to support clean energy and reduce their energy costs.
We’ve stepped up our Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) efforts and have expanded our diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond just our hiring practices. We’ve launched a 12-week fully paid parental leave policy for primary caregivers, which is rare for a company of Nexamp’s size and age. It places it among the only 20% of companies that offer fully paid family leave for Nexampers.
Through team member feedback, we concluded that Nexamp could no longer embrace the typical way of looking at holidays and revised our company policy. Nexampers are now free to celebrate their holidays as they choose, empowering them to focus on what is most meaningful for them and their families. Formal holidays, except for Election Day when we close the office and encourage all to exercise their right to vote, have been eliminated.
This new holiday policy recognizes our team members’ unique and varying religious and personal beliefs and how they choose to celebrate their background and culture—and we realize that a diverse workforce is what makes our innovative company compassionate and prosperous.
Taking it one step further, we’ve also designated company-sponsored service days throughout the year that correspond with four holidays—Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Earth Day, Juneteenth, and Veteran’s Day. On these service-oriented holidays, Nexamp offers group service activities or encourages Nexampers to volunteer in their communities. We’ve seen the impact in participation with team members planting community gardens, conducting onsite clean-ups, and hosting virtual discussions on environmental justice.
Considering renewables make up only about 20% of the power generated in the U.S. today, we have a transformative opportunity to dramatically reshape our current energy grid and the renewable sources that power it. In addition, we can significantly expand our clean energy generation through technological innovations and tap into the exponential growth of a diverse solar skilled workforce over the next decade. We’ve shown that we can better reimagine a more sustainable path for clean energy generation and create a diverse workforce to help us get there.