Renewable Energy Jobs For Returning Vets

Wind turbines

Finding a job is difficult enough in this tough economic climate without the added stresses of having just returned from tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. For vets returning to the US, green jobs may be the best solution to finding employment as well as applying technical skills acquired while they served.

While the overall unemployment rate in October hovered around 9%, the unemployment rate for vets was 12.1%, with veterans age 18-24 with a 30.4% unemployment rate, and the White House estimates an additions 1 million service members to return to civilian life by 2016–according to an article posted in the Associated Press.

It is challenging for service members to find employment after returning to civilian life becuase there is a lack of understanding between veterans and potential employers, says Lt. Guy Zierk in the AP article. Employers may not grasp that a task in the military, for instance a squad leader, can translate into an actual job position–entry-level management. It’s equally difficult for veterans to translate their skills into the civilian workforce and convey to an employer they possess the skills for the job.

Thankfully, the renewable energy sector is growing fast. The manufacturing and maintenance of wind turbines or solar arrays require similar skills that service members learn in the military, making green jobs a potentially good fit for a lot of returning vets. There is a pilot program, Troops to Energy Jobs,  which provides training and credentials to returning veterans, as well as college credits for their military training. Knowles Solar is also proud to say our panel manufacturer, SolarWorld, was one of the 70 employers at the Hiring Our Heroes job fair to support meaningful jobs for returning vets.

The solar and wind industry could be a great outlet for returning veterans struggling to find employment and help aid their transition into–not only the civilian workforce–but civilian life as a whole.

Ben Noland working on solar panel installation

Photo Credit: Knowles Solar Employee, and The Associated Press 

Could Vanishing Tax Credits Dismantle Green Energy?

It would be nice to believe that people take steps to greening their homes for the sole purpose of bettering the environment and not because of financial gain.

Solar Panel Installation

Unfortunately, the evidence is indisputable: more people go green if they get a tax break.

Federal tax incentives play a huge role in jump starting green energy movements. Now, there’s a good change they’ll be cut back, or scraped completely which could have disastrous consequences for energy efficiency progress. For instance, this year, residential tax credits for energy efficient doors, windows and appliances was cut from $1,500 down to $500 ending with a 16% decline in the sale of windows and doors. This incentive–along with a $2,000 dollar credit for builders to construct homes that use 50% less energy than the original standard–is set to expire at the end of this year.

Even if Congress extends these, energy incentives are at risk, especially if Republicans gain control of the White House in the 2012 elections as, “The classical conservative position is that credits and incentives for renewable energy or energy efficiency are not good policy,” says Clint Stretch, director of legislative affairs at Deloitte & Touche.

Many of the Republican presidential candidates have plans to decrease or eliminate tax credits, setting an ominous precedence for renewable energy. According to Stretch, even if President Obama is reelected, “there is still going to be a push to take incentives out of the tax code in the context of tax reform.”

It is difficult to measure the effectiveness of energy tax incentives. For instance, is the 30% credit for solar energy installations provided by federal government the reason why solar installations have exploded 800%? Or is it because solar energy awareness has increased while the cost of solar panels has decreased?

Furthermore, tax incentives are currently structured so that some tax payers may receive a credit where as others might not. Many businesses weren’t able to take advantage of the 30% credit for solar system installations because they had no profits to show with the current economic climate–and businesses must claim the tax credit against profits. To alleviate this problem, Congress allowed businesses in this position to get a grant instead of credit, though this too expires at the end of the year.

84% of energy production in the US still comes from fossil fuels with only a sad 8.2% of energy coming from renewables. It seems if the US is actually interested in moving along the path of energy efficiency, nixing energy efficiency tax incentives is a bit preemptive and may seriously divert the potential of transitioning to green energy.

For more information, check out the article in The Fiscal Times.