Oil-Bust Refugees Are Being Courted By Clean Energy in Texas

Jeff Bishop’s LinkedIn post gets right to the point: “Houston Oil & Gas Folks — we’re hiring in Texas” for jobs in clean tech.

His company, battery developer Key Capture Energy, is making the pitch even as tens of thousands of renewable-energy jobs have dried up amid the coronavirus pandemic. That’s because Bishop and a handful of other clean-power executives see an opportunity to recruit talent from the oil and gas industries, which have been even harder hit.

$81.​9B Renewable power investment worldwide in Q4 2019

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50,​820 Million metric tons of greenhouse emissions, most recent annual data 0 3 2 1 0 9 ,0 8 7 6 5 4 0 8 7 6 5 4 0 8 7 6 5 4 Soccer pitches of forest lost this hour, most recent data -8.​07% Today’s arctic ice area vs. historic average

While there are plenty of overlapping skills, it wasn’t always easy for clean-power companies to lure top talent from oil and gas. Wind and solar were young and niche industries that tended to attract environmentalists. Now they’re big energy, and they appeal to a wider class of workers. Since publishing the post two months ago, Bishop has received about 200 applications.

“We’ve always wanted oil and gas folks,” said Bishop, Key Capture’s chief executive officer.

When boiled down, much of oil, gas, wind and solar is about building projects and selling the output. That requires workers with backgrounds in geology, land acquisition, engineering, finance, asset management and energy contracts.

“We are hiring oil and gas refugees for sure,” said Christian Fong, CEO at Spruce Finance Inc. The solar company moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Houston two years ago to recruit more energy veterans. It plans to boost its staff by 30%, or 20 people, during the second and third quarters.

Clean power already has momentum in Texas. It’s long been the top wind-power state in the U.S. Solar has been booming. Houston plans to power all of its city-owned properties — from fire stations to airports — with renewable energy. And now the city’s mayor is trying to bring two Elon Musk companies to the city —Tesla Inc. and SpaceX — in his push to broaden the city’s economic base beyond oil.

“We’re having to make certain adjustments,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “It’s about energy transition.”

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