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Clean energy jobs grow 7 percent, report says

The number of clean energy jobs in Wisconsin is up by some 7 percent, a new report says.

But such jobs make up a tiny number of overall jobs in the state.

Clean energy jobs grew by 6.8 percent last year to more than 26,380, says a recent report released by Illinois-based nonprofit Clean Energy Trust (logo pictured here) and national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs. The analysis is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a survey of thousands of businesses conducted by BW Research Partnership, a market researcher based in California.

Clean energy sectors included in the Clean Jobs Midwest report were renewable energy generation, advanced grid, energy efficiency, clean fuels and advanced transportation. The report shows job growth across these sectors occurred nearly six times as quickly as overall job growth in Wisconsin.

Most of the new jobs came from the renewable energy field, which includes wind, solar, geothermal, bioenergy and hydroelectric power. These job areas grew around 14 percent last year, with 4,207 solar workers, 666 workers in wind generation and 262 in geothermal.

Energy efficiency produced the lion’s share of clean energy jobs with 18,405, while renewable energy had 6,455. Advanced transportation had 999 workers, clean fuels had 340, and advanced grid had 185.

Across all these sectors, about 46 percent of all the jobs were in construction, while manufacturing accounted for about 34 percent.

The Clean Jobs Midwest report provides details on employment in each county, congressional district and state legislative district in the 12-state Midwest region: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

“The Midwest has quickly become a clean energy job hub, with every state seeing job growth. This is the result of pioneering businesses aided in part by smart state and federal policies,” said Bob Keefe, executive director for Environmental Entrepreneurs.

But Keefe says policymakers should go further, pushing for legislation which provides greater support for clean energy development so that the United States doesn’t fall behind other nations.

“With renewable energy costs declining to historic levels, Wisconsin businesses stand ready to develop significantly more renewable energy projects in state, and to manufacture products and deliver services across the Midwest and the nation to enable the broader transition to clean power,” said Tyler Huebner, executive director of environmental advocacy group RENEW Wisconsin.

Clean Energy Trust supports clean energy startups with mentoring, business development services and direct investment. Since it began in 2010, CET has awarded $3.7 million in funding to 33 startups, and startups which have benefitted from CET have raised $112 million in follow-on funding and created over 300 jobs.

Erik Birkerts, CEO of Clean Energy Trust, says clean energy jobs play an important role in the Midwest by filling in the gaps left behind by declining manufacturing employment.

"We're optimistic that this growth engine can continue unabated as the Midwest continues to prove it is a fertile region for clean energy innovation, enabling businesses to launch, grow and create jobs,” Birkerts said.

Though the number of clean energy jobs in the state is rising, their share of the total workforce stood at 0.85 percent at the end of 2016 -- the smallest share of any of the 12 Midwest states highlighted in the report. The next lowest was Indiana with 1.43 percent, while North Dakota had the greatest share with 2.95 percent.

--By Alex Moe


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