August 27, 2020
Minnesota’s clean energy sector has consistently added jobs at a faster rate than overall statewide job growth. In 2019, clean energy jobs grew 2.5 times faster than all other sectors of Minnesota’s economy. Before the pandemic hit, clean energy employers projected 7 percent growth in 2020 -- or adding more than 4,500 new jobs. Over 10,000 clean energy workers lost their jobs during the pandemic, but with Minnesota’s history of solid growth, we expect to see them and more come back as the economic recovery begins.
What are the sectors of clean energy?
According to Clean Jobs Midwest, the clean energy industry can be broken down into five unique sectors: energy efficiency, renewable energy, advanced transportation, advanced grid and energy storage and clean fuels. Within each sector, there are unique subsectors working to advance clean energy.
The energy efficiency sector includes workers manufacturing and installing energy-efficient appliances, materials, and technologies, like 75F, LHB, and Willdan. There are five subsectors within energy efficiency; ENERGY STAR and efficient lighting, traditional heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), high-efficiency HVAC, advanced materials, and other. Examples of energy efficiency work include retrofitting old buildings to be energy-efficient through updated HVAC systems or helping residential homeowners upgrade their windows. The energy efficiency sector accounts for 76.2 percent of all clean energy jobs in Minnesota.
The renewable energy sector includes workers in wind, solar, geothermal, bioenergy, and low-impact hydro like EVS, Koda Energy, and Winona Renewable Energy. These workers could be engineers developing the technology or people helping to construct and operate, wind turbines, bioenergy plants, or solar installations. The renewable energy sector accounts for 12.8 percent of all clean energy jobs in Minnesota.
The advanced transportation sector includes people working on electric, hybrid and plug-in electric, natural gas, and hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles like New Flyer. This sector includes individuals working on developing these advanced technologies and manufacturing and distributing them. The advanced transportation sector accounts for 5.2 percent of all clean energy jobs in Minnesota. Xcel Energy recently announced its initiative to add 1.5 million electric vehicles to the road by 2030. This kind of business leadership drives innovation, job growth, and positive change for the entire sector.
The advanced grid and energy storage sector includes individuals working to update the electricity grid and ensure efficiency and reliability of our energy supply like Nokomis Energy and Werner Electric. This includes engineers, manufacturers, and people who install new technologies. The advanced grid sector accounts for 4.7 percent of all clean energy jobs in Minnesota.
The clean fuels sector includes people working to improve advanced, low-carbon fuels made from agricultural waste, used cooking oil, algae and other substances. This includes engineers and scientists working to develop these fuels and individuals responsible for developing and selling them. The clean fuels sector accounts for 1.1 percent of all clean energy jobs in Minnesota.
Which sectors are growing?
In 2019, Minnesota gained over 1,140 jobs, the third largest gain in the Midwest. Renewable generation grew 2.3 percent for a total of 7,920 jobs in the sector. In 2019, the wind subsector added 129 more jobs, a growth of nearly 6 percent, as several new wind projects were completed and previously built projects were repowered. While growth has slowed in this sector, previous years have shown the possibility for faster and bigger growth of this sector.
The energy efficiency sector grew by 2 percent; lighting grew 1.7 percent and advanced materials and traditional HVAC led growth for the energy efficiency subsector with 6 percent and 4.3 percent respectively. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranked Minnesota 8th out of all 50 states for its overall energy efficiency programs (the highest ranking in the Midwest). This ranking is a strong reason Minnesota’s energy efficiency sector is so robust. Most of the jobs lost in the clean energy industry from the impact of COVID-19 have been from this sector.
Advanced Grid and Energy Storage
The smart grid and energy storage sector experienced 5 percent growth in 2019. As costs decline for energy storage, and Minnesota’s utilities explore ways to modernize and strengthen the reliability of the electrical grid, there are more opportunities for cost-effectively using these technologies.
Minnesota also saw a 10 percent growth in people working in ‘other biofuels,’ leading the Midwest. Advanced biofuels play a critical role in supporting Minnesota jobs and decarbonizing our transportation sector emissions. Companies like Gevo and Poet are continuing to innovate as they bring lower-carbon fuels to market that provide sustainable alternatives to petroleum.