Renewable energy’s resiliency has provided the country with
reliable power, and a stable source of income for Americans. Despite the
onslaught of COVID-related losses, renewable
energy was the only power source that did not have a decline in demand. Because
construction activity never completely ceased, 2020 saw the highest number of
renewable energy installations to date, and a record number of people are still
receiving a hard-earned paycheck.
Clean energy jobs took a slight dip due to the COVID-19
pandemic, but there was still much to be proud of. Clean Jobs Midwest’s latest report states
that there were nearly 678,000 clean energy jobs across the Midwest in 2020 –
that’s more than 22 percent of the nation’s clean energy workforce! Renewable
energy held the second highest number of jobs, with over 84,000 workers. Wind
energy jobs in the region grew by more than 4 percent to nearly 37,800 workers.
Solar was not far behind, with nearly 37,000 jobs. In fact, solar installer is
the fastest-growing job in the nation, and has a median annual pay of $46,470.
Wind turbine technician is the second-fastest growing job, and has a yearly
salary of $56,230,
a six percent increase from 2019. Additionally, over 24,000 people held jobs in
grid and storage.
The region’s clean energy sector grew 11 percent in the
second half of 2020. Maybe that’s because more Midwesterners worked in clean
energy than worked as accountants, auditors, computer programmers, web
developers, and real estate agents and brokers combined. Nine out of 12 Midwest
states exceeded their overall economies’ job growth rate during that time, with
six states exceeding 10 percent. Small businesses are big drivers in the
region’s clean energy sector. About 70 percent of clean energy workers are
employed by a small, local business.
Clean energy job opportunities are available all over the
Midwest. Metro areas like Chicago (81,707), Detroit (50,229), and Minneapolis
(34,958) host a large number of the workforce, but more than one in five — or
more than 143,800 — jobs are in rural areas. The wide-open spaces in rural areas
are a perfect fit for wind and solar projects. In return, they offer landowners
a diversified source of income; well-paying jobs for residents; and a tax
revenue stream for counties and townships that helps keep a lid on property
taxes for everyone. Additionally, the capital investment from renewable energy projects
creates an economic ripple effect that benefits the entire community.
Construction workers flocking to the area rent property or stay in hotels, dine
at local restaurants, shop at grocery stores and fill their tanks at the local
gas stations. Once the project is complete, good family-supporting jobs remain,
and local businesses like service stations, hardware stores, and landscape
maintenance companies continue to benefit.
All of this hard work certainly paid off at the end of the
year. Capacity grew 61
percent, with over 33.8 GW of new clean power. About 40
percent of U.S. power generation was carbon-free in as a result, and
renewables provided one-fifth of the country’s energy needs. With wind prices
percent in the last decade and low installation and operation costs, wind
capacity increased by 85 percent (17.1 GW) representing a $17.7 billion
investment. Solar prices have fallen 90 percent in the last 10 years, and cheap
technology costs have helped drive an all-time high of 16.5 GW for new capacity.
Decreases in lithium-ion battery pack prices, set off the largest year of
energy storage installations across the United States to date, with about
Prospects for clean energy growth are greater than ever thanks
to new federal climate policy proposals combined with leadership in the Midwest
states. These policies can help create thousands of new jobs as the
post-pandemic recovery surges on. This shift to a cleaner economy would create
major new opportunities for job seekers throughout the region — including in
communities impacted by the ongoing decline of other parts of the energy sector
such as coal, oil, and gas.
Clean energy is the future – and that means a clean energy
job market. A career in clean energy means a great income, benefits and the
ability to work in a thriving industry. That’s just smart!