In the Midwest, Clean Energy Jobs Booming

New report shows 569,000 Midwesterners now work in clean energy, clean transportation; smart policies driving growth

Think about the Midwest and you might think corn or cows or car manufacturing.

Here’s what you should also think: Clean energy.

A comprehensive new analysis by Clean Energy Trust (CET), Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and partners across 12 states shows that the Midwest has become a clean energy jobs powerhouse in recent years.

About 569,000 Midwesterners now work in clean energy in the states stretching from the Dakotas to Ohio. They include engineers and wind turbine installers in rural Iowa and building efficiency workers in big cities like Chicago and St. Louis.

Energy efficiency is the biggest employer of clean energy workers in the Midwest, according to the new report. About 423,000 Midwesterners have jobs making our homes, offices and schools more energy efficiency through better HVAC systems, lighting, windows and appliances. Nearly 70,000 work in renewable energy, including wind and solar. Another 64,000 work in advanced transportation — making electric and hybrid vehicles and the parts that go in them — while about 7,100 work in clean fuels.

The new Clean Jobs Midwest report is based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and a survey of thousands of businesses across the region. Containing data right down to the county and legislative district level, the full report is available at www.cleanjobsmidwest.com.

These half a million-plus clean energy jobs are good-paying positions that can’t easily be outsourced our offshored. They’re creating new opportunities for Midwestern entrepreneurs, investors and hard-hatted union men and women in both rural and urban areas, regardless of background, education or experience level.

The people behind these jobs are people like Zach Tucker, who helps run his family’s lighting efficiency company near St. Louis, and Greg Smith, who started an energy efficiency consulting company in Tipp City, Ohio that now does work throughout the country.

They’re people like Amy Van Beek and her husband Troy, who left a career in the U.S. Navy SEAL teams to start a solar company in Fairfield Iowa; and folks like Matt Reuscher, a former coal miner who now works for StraightUp Solar in Illinois and Missouri.

There’s a reason why clean energy is booming in the Midwest.

It starts with smart policies.

Iowa was the first state in the country to pass a renewable portfolio standard, which requires the state’s utilities to generate a portion of their electricity from clean, renewable energy. Today, Iowa is one of the leading states for wind energy — and wind energy jobs — in the country.

Missouri, meanwhile, released a comprehensive state energy plan in October 2015 that emphasizes clean energy and energy efficiency. That’s helped make Missouri employers bullish on the future. Based on interviews of business leaders across the state as part of the Clean Jobs Midwest study, Missouri’s clean energy jobs base is expected to grow by more than 8 percent — the highest rate in the Midwest.

States like Missouri and Iowa know that the best way to keep creating good-paying clean energy jobs is by implementing smart policies — policies like the federal Clean Power Plan that is designed to reduce carbon emissions by replacing dirty energy with clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Governors and legislators in other states should take note of the jobs being created in states like these that have good clean energy policies if they care about their own economy and environment and about creating jobs for their constituents.

They should remember those 569,000 Midwestern clean energy workers and their families when they’re faced with attempts by special interest lobbyists and political groups to stop the federal Clean Power Plan and other smart clean energy policies that are proven to create jobs and drive economic growth.

And instead of keeping their states shackled to dirty and dangerous energy sources like coal and gas and nuclear, they ought to be working to attract one of the hottest industries going these days:

Clean energy.

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