America’s Dairyland is poised to get a lot greener. Wisconsin, which ranks 29th in the nation in terms of pollution, has pledged to generate 100 percent of its energy from carbon-free sources by 2050. State Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order today (Friday, Aug. 16) directing the Wisconsin Department of Administration to create a new Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy. This office, in partnership with other state agencies and utility companies, will work to achieve total carbon-free energy consumption over the next three decades.
“A transition to a clean energy economy will generate thousands of family-supporting jobs in Wisconsin,” Gov. Evers said in a statement. “Our state has a responsibility to current and future generations of Wisconsinites to act to prevent continuing damage to our climate and to invest in solutions that help to mitigate the changes that have already occurred.”
Today, Wisconsin spends an average of $12 billion on importing fuels made from natural gas, petroleum and coal. Not only will this commitment help the state reduce harmful carbon emissions, but it’ll boost Wisconsin’s economy and create jobs along the way.
Clean Energy Jobs in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is home to more than 76,300 clean energy jobs, and that number continues to rise. These jobs figures were released in an April 2019 report from the non-partisan group, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). The midwestern state added 1,786 jobs in 2018, a 2.4 percent growth from the year prior. Employers surveyed in E2’s clean energy jobs report anticipates that the state will add more than 6,000 new jobs in the clean energy sector this year. If that happens, Wisconsin will experience an impressive 8.4 percent growth rate over 2018.
A majority of Wisconsinites who work in clean energy are employed in the energy efficiency sector (66.6%). These professionals are manufacturing EnergyStar appliances, installing energy-saving heating and cooling systems, and designing advanced building materials for commercial offices. The renewable energy sector accounts for 7.8 percent of the state’s clean energy jobs, followed by 6.3 percent in advanced transportation and 2.8 percent working in advanced grid applications.
Clean Energy Job Skills Training
An important aspect of Gov. Evers’ executive order is the focus on workforce training. The push toward 100% carbon-free energy aims to promote clean energy workforce training in coordination with private and non-profit programs, along with educational institutions – the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical College System.
Severe Weather and Health Concerns a Driving Force to Act
Extreme weather caused by climate change is one of the driving forces that caused Gov. Evers to take action. His order highlighted statewide data from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change, which reveals that temperatures are expected to warm by 6 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century.
In addition, the state will likely experience heat indexes soaring above 100 degrees for as much as two weeks each year come 2050. This would put Wisconsin on par with current summer temperatures in states like Georgia and Mississippi.
Resident health and well-being also played a key role in this aggressive push to combat climate change. Health concerns such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular disease, neurological defects, bronchitis and a range of cancers have been linked to the impacts of climate change.
Despite President Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord in 2017, Gov. Evers’ executive order helps ensure Wisconsin fulfills its carbon reduction goals set by the Accord in 2015.