Philadelphia Building Decarbonization Workforce Impacts and Opportunities



The Economy League and the Building Electrification Institute (BEI) have collaborated on a report, Philadelphia Building Decarbonization Workforce Impacts and Opportunities.  The report assesses the workforce implications of implementing potential decarbonization technologies in Philadelphia to inform future stakeholder conversations about the long-term transition away from fossil fuels. The report finds that by deploying multiple fossil fuel-free technologies, including large-scale district geothermal networks, and collaborating closely with the existing workforce, the City can create new economic innovation opportunities for its municipally-owned gas utility and career paths for its workers while addressing climate change.

As municipalities build their resiliency strategies in the face of climate change and plan for the nearly inevitable shift away from fossil fuels in coming decades, leaders must protect the interests of utility workers and ratepayers. This report identifies the opportunities and challenges in transitioning Philadelphia’s valued gas utility workers to the quality energy jobs of the future. It recommends stronger collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Gas Works, the Utility Workers Union, and ratepayers to ensure a fair and equitable transition.

~ Jeff Hornstein, Executive Director, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

Key Takeaways: 

  • Philadelphia’s decarbonization efforts will take decades. There will be a long-term need to strategically maintain, repurpose, and decommission gas pipelines. Current gas utility workers do not need to fear that building decarbonization would mean they will lose their jobs overnight.
  • Deploying multiple decarbonization technologies through a long-term, planned transition would provide the greatest economic and workforce innovation opportunities for PGW and the City of Philadelphia.
  • Positioning PGW to invest, own, and expand in decarbonization technologies will not only provide new revenue opportunities for the utility and the City, but also would offer the best chance of protecting and supporting a just transition for current natural gas workers.
  • The construction, operations, and maintenance of large-scale district energy networks – powered by geothermal or other renewable energy – would provide significant job opportunities for current gas utility workers.
  • Building electrification will require thousands of building retrofit and electric infrastructure jobs, although there may be limited job transition opportunities for the current gas workforce.
  • Decarbonized gas use in buildings theoretically offers the simplest transition for current gas workers, but it presents significant cost and regulatory barriers, and may result in limited job creation and minimal impacts on building emissions, which make it an unlikely sole candidate for meeting the City’s building decarbonization goals.
  • As part of a long-term planning process, there is an opportunity to look beyond just building decarbonization strategies and make investments in other sectors to help mitigate any potential job losses for gas workers.
  • The City of Philadelphia and PGW must engage and include the existing workforce, including current gas workers, throughout the decarbonization planning process to create a fair, multi-decade transition strategy.