Pew report finds clean-energy jobs rising to significant levels in MinnesotaBuilding and installing wind generators and solar panels, replacing inefficient windows and lighting and insulating homes are among the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal
Building and installing wind generators and solar panels, replacing inefficient windows and lighting and insulating homes are among the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The nonprofit group on Wednesday released the results from a national study that shows U.S. “clean-energy jobs" grew 9.1 percent between 1998 and 2007, much faster than the overall national job growth of 3.7 percent.
The study found that in 2007 there were 770,000 jobs at more than 68,200 businesses across the U.S. under the definition of clean energy. That compares to about 1.27 million people working in fossil fuel-related businesses such as coal mining and oil refining.
In Minnesota, the study found that clean-energy jobs grew 11.9 percent between 1998 and 2007, six times faster than the state’s overall job growth of 1.9 percent.
The report said green-energy job growth certainly slowed with the overall economy in 2008, for which employment statistics aren’t yet available, but also likely kept up its lead over other sectors.
“We had a record first quarter and I’m pretty sure we’ll see a record year," said Mike LeBeau, founder of Duluth-based Conservation Technologies. The company does energy efficiency consulting, solar energy installation and heat recovery systems for residential and commercial customers.
The company started in 1993 with two employees, now has six and is poised to grow when the economy rebounds. But LeBeau said that growth depends on how serious Americans are about taking a new direction on energy.
“If we keep our national will to keep up in this direction, and not be lulled into complacency with cheaper oil, I think this [clean-energy job growth] is going to keep going up," LeBeau said, noting state and federal rebates and incentives are helping keep interest in energy projects strong despite the slow economy.
The Pew study found clean energy jobs outperformed the overall economy in 38 of the 50 states. Wisconsin, however, saw clean energy jobs decline by 5.2 percent over the same 10 years while overall jobs grew 3.4 percent.
Nationally, clean energy venture capital increased from $1 billion in 2005 to $5.9 billion in 2008.
The report also notes that the national clean energy growth occurred with little or no help from U.S. government policy. Now, with federal stimulus money earmarked for clean energy, and White House policy backing the effort, the Pew report forecasts even faster growth for clean energy jobs in coming years.
“The clean energy economy is poised for explosive growth," said Lori Grange, interim deputy director of the Pew center on the States, in announcing the report. “These jobs are driving economic growth and environmental sustainability at a time when America needs both."
Pew also praised Minnesota’s clean-energy efforts, including a state law mandating that 25 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by 2020.
The study found nearly $50 million in clean-energy venture capital over the past three years and noted Minnesota now ranks fourth among all states in wind energy.
The report used a broad definition of “clean-energy jobs" to include renewable energy manufacturing and installation, conservation and pollution mitigation/cleanup jobs, environmentally friendly production and jobs aimed at energy efficiency and training. It includes jobs like plumbers, electricians, engineers, construction, machinists, marketing consultants, teachers and others.
Average pay ranged from $21,000 to $111,000 depending on the profession.
Pew officials said their study is the first national effort to count “hard jobs" in clean energy and not rely on multipliers or models.