The nation’s leading dairy producer could soon be known for a different kind of generation – clean energy. Last year, the Midwestern state added almost 1,800 new clean energy jobs, a 2.4 percent increase from the year prior, according to a 2019 report by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). By the end of 2019, experts predict Wisconsin will more than triple last year’s growth, adding another 6,000 clean energy jobs. That would bring the total number of clean energy workers to nearly 77,000 by year-end.
Wisconsin’s Top Clean Energy Sectors
Where do these Wisconsin clean energy employees work? More of them — nearly 83 percent – are employed in the energy efficiency sector. These 64,140+ professionals are installing LED lighting systems office buildings, manufacturing parts for EnergyStar appliances, replacing outdated windows with triple-pane glass, and developing and refining energy-efficient technologies like spray foam insulation and programmable thermostats.
Renewable energy generation accounted for about 6,000 of Wisconsin clean energy employees, showing a 5.4 percent growth rate from the year prior. Of these, 64 percent work in the solar industry and about 27 percent work at wind energy jobs. One thing to note is that Wisconsin’s solar jobs grew by a half a percent from 2017, while the nation as a whole experienced a decline in solar jobs thanks largely to tariffs on solar modules. Another promising discovery is with bioenergy/combined heat and power (CHP) jobs. There are now about 500 workers in this field in Wisconsin – an increase of roughly 85 percent from 2017.
The third-largest clean energy sector, advanced transportation, employs nearly 4,800 Wisconsinites. This clean energy jobs category made a comeback last year, after experiencing substantial losses in 2017. Jobs focused on plug-in hybrid vehicles experienced a 29 percent growth rate, followed by other plug-in vehicles at 21 percent growth.
Energy Independence Could Create Thousands of New Jobs
Moving away from fossil fuels could hypothetically boost Wisconsin’s economy by $14 billion and create roughly 162,000 new jobs. These findings are the result of a February 2019 study from COWS, a think tank at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. The logic is this: Wisconsin lacks major fossil fuel deposits, leaving the state to ship coal from Wyoming and source natural gas and petroleum from around the globe. Switching to electric power generated from in-state sources like solar and wind, along with powering its 2 million-plus vehicles with clean energy will keep dollars within state borders and create twice the number of jobs in the energy sector.
The study doesn’t address technical hurdles nor does it suggest how the state reach this goal. COWS researchers only aimed to determine the health and economic benefits of in-state energy production. One caveat, for example, would be an increase in statewide electricity costs of roughly 10 percent. While this could be offset with efficiency investments, it’s just one of many factors to consider.
Clean Energy Jobs Outnumber Fossil Fuel Jobs 8:1
According to the report from Environmental Entrepreneurs, there were almost 9,200 Wisconsinites working in the fossil fuel industry in 2018. This means there are more than eight times the number of clean energy workers than there are fossil fuel workers in Wisconsin. With growth projections in the clean energy sector higher than the national average (8.4 percent vs. 7 percent) this year, Wisconsin is poised to become a leader in our clean energy economy.
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