March/April 2021 Director’s Note

The tipping point to a clean energy economy is a big reason to celebrate this Earth Day. Clean energy remained the biggest job creator across the entire US energy sector in 2020 employing nearly three times the number of workers than the fossil fuel industry. Clean Jobs America 2021, an analysis by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) April 2021, found that 3 million Americans worked in clean energy at the close of 2020, down nearly 307,000 jobs over the coronavirus pandemic and during the previous administration. The good news is that the clean energy economy is recovering quickly, especially with electric vehicle and renewable energy jobs including grid and storage, and is on track to recover faster than the overall national workforce.

One in every 50 workers in the US is employed in clean energy. According to the study, “clean energy workers now account for 19 percent of all construction jobs, over 5 percent of jobs in wholesale trade, and more than 4 percent of manufacturing jobs”. Median hourly wages for clean energy workers are 25 percent higher than the national median wage.

Wisconsin ranks 17th among states in clean energy jobs with 69,343 jobs or 2.53 percent of the state’s workforce. Wisconsin’s job growth increased 6.2 percent June – December 2020. Neighbors Illinois and Michigan rank 5th and 6th with 115,000 and 113,000 jobs. Indiana ranks 12th and Minnesota 20th.

Clean energy is driven by small businesses where more than two thirds of workers are in companies of 20 people or less. The distribution of jobs is local, especially in rural districts and small communities. Wisconsin rural areas support over one quarter of the state’s clean energy jobs. Of the 17,630 rural clean energy jobs, 14,368 are in energy efficiency and 1,407 in renewable energy.

The balance of Wisconsin’s clean energy jobs are distributed across employment hubs. Hubs and number of jobs include: Milwaukee- Waukesha- West Allis (18,574), Madison (8,081), Green Bay (3,268), Oshkosh-Neenah (3,076), Appleton (2,679), Duluth MN/WI (1,961), Racine (1,794), Eau Claire (1,735), Wausau (1,421), La Crosse (1,363), Janesville (1,374), Sheboygan (1,120), and Fond du Lac (1,013).

Given the incentives to grow the clean energy economy from both the Biden administration and Governor Evers, coupled with the rapid transformation of WIsconsin’s grid to clean renewable energy (the PSC just received an application from Invenergy to develop another 2400 acres of solar plus storage in Dane County, whcih would be Wisconsin’s largest clean energy plant, added to more than 1,000 MW of Alliant solar farms and others) Wisconsin is likely to eperience continued strong job growth in clean energy.

Sherrie Gruder