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Clean Energy is Key for Economic Recovery in the Midwest

As the Midwest and the rest of America look toward economic recovery, the clean energy industry will play a key role because of its size, reach, and growth potential.

2019 Quick Facts

+7,559
Jobs in 2019
>20%
More than 20 percent of U.S. clean energy jobs are located in the Midwest
2x
Clean energy jobs grew more than twice as fast as overall employment across the Midwest

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, clean energy companies employed more than 744,000 Midwesterners and clean energy jobs were growing in nearly every state, according to the latest available data. Across the region in 2019, the industry added more than 7,500 new jobs. At the end of 2019, more people in the Midwest worked in clean energy than the combined workforce of real estate agents and brokers, computer programmers, web developers, and waiters and waitresses. However, according to a recent analysis of U.S. Department of Labor unemployment data, in just the first three months after the pandemic began more than 131,600 workers in clean energy-related companies lost their jobs.

Clean Energy Jobs in the Midwest

We’ve seen how government investment in clean energy can help create jobs and restart the economy. After the financial crisis, federal stimulus funding in 2009 contributed to the creation of hundreds of thousands of new clean energy jobs nationwide. It provided loans to help start about 500 new clean energy companies; weatherize thousands of homes and other buildings, and helped triple the amount of energy America gets from solar and wind.

As federal and state lawmakers once again look toward economic recovery, Clean Jobs Midwest illustrates the size, reach, and importance of the clean energy industry at a pivotal moment for our nation’s economy.

Jobs by Sector

The Midwest’s largest clean energy employer was energy efficiency. The sector has been home to more than 70 percent of all the region’s clean energy jobs. Last year, the Midwest also saw job growth rate increases in clean fuels (2.9 percent), grid and storage (3.4 percent), and renewable energy generation (2.7 percent).

Clean energy jobs are found in every corner of the region. While big cities like Chicago (88,930 jobs), Detroit (55,470 jobs), and Minneapolis (38,920 jobs) were some of the largest hubs for clean energy jobs, more than one in five — or more than 158,000 — were at the end of 2019 located in rural areas.

Thousands of Midwestern companies hire clean energy workers every year. Before the crisis hit, these employers anticipated adding nearly 37,000 clean energy jobs in 2020 — a nearly 5 percent growth rate.

Policies Matter

As lawmakers look to reinvigorate our economy and get America back to work, they must consider how they can support clean energy workers and provide stimulus funding that can drive job creation and economic growth for years to come.

At the federal level, lawmakers should:

  • Boost renewables: Secure projects and jobs that rely on incentive-based funding by extending federal clean energy incentive deadlines to account for COVID-19-related delays. Also, extend, expand, and reform clean energy incentives like the Production Tax Credit and expired energy efficiency tax credits for commercial and residential buildings and include direct pay options for each.
  • Rev up advanced transportation: Invest in the infrastructure we need to expand the nation’s electric vehicle charging network and clean fuel infrastructure; support robust fuel efficiency standards.
  • Keep energy efficiency on track: Fund energy efficiency programs to immediately restore demand for the services of the electricians, construction workers, installers, and factory workers whose jobs have been impacted by COVID.
  • Invest in energy storage and other cutting-edge technologies: Increase funding for U.S. Department of Energy programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and the federal loan guarantee program. This will spur the kinds of world-leading innovations we need to create new opportunities now while also driving growth for decades to come.

Meanwhile, states and municipalities across the Midwest can do their part by adopting strong renewable portfolio and energy efficiency standards that enable businesses to keep their workers on the job and can help create thousands of new jobs as the recovery kicks into gear.

Subsector Details

Value Chain

Each category below captures jobs from multiple clean energy sectors and industries. In 2019, the majority of clean energy jobs in the Midwest were in manufacturing and construction. 

Job Highlights

70%
Small businesses drive the region’s clean energy sector -- 70 percent of Midwestern clean energy businesses employed fewer than 20 individuals in 2019
11%
In 2019, 11 percent of clean energy workers were veterans -- nearly twice the representation of veterans in the region’s overall workforce

Find out how many clean energy jobs are in your county or district.

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Unless otherwise stated, the data and analyses presented in this report by Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) are based on data collected for the 2020 U.S. Energy Employment Report (2020 USEER), produced by the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) in partnership with the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and collected and analyzed by BW Research Partnership (BWRP). For more information on the survey methodology, please visit cleanjobsmidwest.com/about.

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