The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 1:00 am

State has job surge in clean energy

86,900 filled in '18, 4th most in Midwest

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The number of clean energy jobs increased by 4.7% in Indiana last year, tied for the highest growth rate among a dozen Midwest states, clean energy advocates reported Tuesday.

The fourth annual Clean Jobs Midwest survey showed that Hoosiers filled 86,900 clean energy jobs in 2018, the fourth largest state total in the region. They accounted for 2.5% of the Indiana workforce, the biggest share among Midwestern states.

With 5,349 clean energy jobs, Allen County ranked fourth statewide behind Marion, Elkhart and Lake counties, according to the report, which was published by the nonprofit Clean Energy Trust and the business and investor group Environmental Entrepreneurs.

“In Indiana, a big part of the growth has been advanced transportation,” Micaela Preskill, Midwest advocate for Environmental Entrepreneurs, said during a conference call with news media.

Preskill said employment in advanced transportation manufacturing, including electric vehicles, expanded by 18.3% in Indiana last year. The segment employs about 17,100 people. 

Jonathan Roberts, Midwest vice president for Soltage Renewable Energy Provider, said Indiana also is “seeing more and more” renewable energy generation by utility companies as they retire fossil fuel assets.

But the report also found that Indiana added “only a few dozen” renewable energy jobs in 2018 and   experienced “moderate” declines in solar and wind energy jobs.

The study identified other clean energy jobs as those in clean fuels, energy storage, grid modernization and the production or installation of energy-efficient lighting, heating, cooling and building systems and appliances.

Indiana and Minnesota tied for the highest rate of job growth in the Midwest, which saw an overall 4% increase in clean energy jobs. Michigan, Illinois and Ohio, respectively, had the most jobs in the region, which stretches from Ohio to the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas.

The report said northeast Indiana's 3rd Congressional District had 12,814 clean energy jobs last year, the most among the state's nine congressional districts. In addition to Allen, leading counties in the 3rd District were Noble, with 1,109 clean energy jobs; Huntington, 711; and DeKalb, 695. 

Preskill said the survey counted more than 737,000 clean energy jobs in the Midwest, including nearly 170,000 that were created since 2015.

“This report clearly shows that clean energy in the Midwest is not just a trend, but it's a real driving economic force across the region,” she said.

Erik Birkerts, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Clean Energy Trust, told reporters the Midwest is creating clean energy jobs faster than the rest of the country. Birkerts said the Midwest “is just fertile for energy innovation” because of its “world-class universities, national laboratories, deep industrial roots and an educated workforce.”

Preskill cautioned that “while clean energy jobs are growing, they're also increasingly under threat. The bad news is that the Trump administration's anti-clean energy policies like solar panel tariffs, planned rollbacks of vehicle mileage and emission standards and delays of energy efficiency standards, these are already impacting some sectors of the clean energy economy and are casting foreboding shadows over others.”

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