After challenging year, clean energy jobs bouncing back in Minnesota
Bright spots appear in advanced transportation and wind sectors
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN – More than 55,300 Minnesotans worked in energy efficiency and clean energy at the end of 2020, making the industry a major – and promising – part of the state’s economy, according to a comprehensive analysis of employment data released today by the national, nonpartisan business group E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), and nonprofits Clean Energy Trust and Clean Energy Economy MN (CEEM). The report comes as Congress and the Biden administration are considering legislation to boost federal investments in clean energy and infrastructure and as the Clean Cars Minnesota standards and the Energy Conservation and Optimization Act or ECO Act become law.
Last year was the first year-over-year decline since E2, Clean Energy Trust, and CEEM began tracking Minnesota clean energy jobs. At one point, more than 11,500 Minnesota clean energy workers had filed for unemployment, but the sector surged back 10 percent in the second half of the year to recover nearly half of the jobs initially lost. Last year’s job losses were a dramatic change of pace for the industry. In the 3 years leading up to 2020, for example, clean energy jobs grew 3 times as fast as overall statewide employment.
“By supporting the growth of clean energy jobs, not only are we boosting our economy, but we are protecting our environment and Minnesota’s future,” said Governor Tim Walz. “This report demonstrates that we can have a clean future while creating jobs and expanding our economy.”
“Clean energy jobs are the jobs of the future, and Minnesota is taking the right steps forward to make sure we are building a brighter future for our young people,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “Thank you, Clean Energy Economy MN, for understanding the urgency of this moment, being good partners in this work, and doing the research to show an environmentally friendly economy is a strong economy.”
Despite the setbacks, clean energy jobs rebounded quicker than the overall Minnesota workforce, according to the analysis. The advanced transportation sector saw the highest job growth rate at 2% over the last year. While the renewable energy generation sector overall lost jobs, the wind industry subsector maintained impressive growth at 8% in 2020.
“I commend CEEM for their continued hard work putting together this valuable annual update on clean energy jobs in Minnesota. This year’s report shows an industry rapidly recovering from the COVID slowdown and confirms what we’ve been saying—that a clean energy transition is good for our environment, and good for the economy,” says U.S. Senator Tina Smith. “The United States can lead when it comes to this transition, or we can follow. I want us to lead so that we can continue to keep growing the number of clean energy jobs and support workers in the Midwest.”
CEEM Executive Director Gregg Mast points to the job growth as a sign that policy leadership at the state and federal level continues to be critically important.
“You can see the impressive growth potential in Minnesota’s clean energy sector in the rapid way jobs came back in the second half of 2020. While Covid-19 slowed the industry’s momentum, many businesses have continued to do well and even grow despite the worldwide effects of the pandemic,” said Gregg Mast. “With strong and stable policies in place, investment in innovative clean energy technologies will continue to surge. The clean energy jobs data will inform our policy proposals to boost more good-paying clean energy jobs – from building energy efficiency, to clean transportation, as well as Minnesota’s community solar garden program.”
Nokomis Energy is a Minnesota-based energy developer focused on helping the people, businesses and communities of the Upper Midwest benefit from the transition to a clean energy economy.
“Nokomis Energy has been fortunate to continue to grow and add good paying jobs to our local economy. In the past year, we have increased our team by over 50% and we are always looking for motivated teammates who can help develop new clean energy opportunities to join us.” Says Joe Stofega, a partner at Nokomis Energy. “While we are still in the early stages of deploying clean energy across the Upper Midwest, the local benefits are already becoming obvious; lower electricity rates, more control over where your energy comes from, utilization of low value land, investment in electric infrastructure, increased private investment and ownership, and lots and lots of local, well-paying jobs. We are lucky to be located in Minnesota and play our role at the forefront of the energy transition in the Upper Midwest, building the clean economy right here in our communities.”
McKinstry is a design build firm with a satellite office in the Twin Cities. Their work is about creating energy efficient and sustainable buildings and reducing the energy bill for their customers.
“At McKinstry, we work with many local governments, universities, and schools – places that during the pandemic saw an increased need for energy efficiency, long term cost savings, and improved indoor air environments. As new policies are discussed at the Legislature, such as enhanced building codes, and the recently passed ECO Act, we anticipate an increase in demand for our solutions and services. And, with every energy project, we are able to create local jobs in the energy and construction industry; thus, McKinstry is incredibly proud to act as part of Minnesota’s growing clean energy economy,” says Laura Malwitz, Director of Strategic Partnerships at McKinstry.
“This report demonstrates the value of the state’s investments in clean energy,” said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold. “The ECO Act of 2021 will expand those investments, with benefits of lower costs for Minnesota consumers and businesses. Clean energy brings Minnesota good jobs as engineers, HVAC technicians, designers, and construction workers. And clean energy means a better economy and cleaner environment for future generations.”
“Clean energy jobs are critical to the success of Minnesota’s economy,” said Minnesota DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “As we look to guide our state’s economy into the future, these jobs must be a part of the solution to ensure a resilient workforce, especially in Greater Minnesota.”
CEEM is offering several policy recommendations that would help strengthen the industry. At the state policy level, lawmakers should:
- Support enhanced building codes: Buildings represent some 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Modernizing building codes will ensure all existing and new buildings are built to the most efficient standards Not only would this energize Minnesota’s energy efficiency sector and create thousands of jobs, it would also help Minnesota achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.
- Pass a 100% clean electricity by 2040 standard: Technology advances and smart policy together can help create a clean, reliable, and affordable energy future for Minnesota.
- Fully fund the Bioincentive Program: Bioenergy facilities play an important role in the bioeconomy, as they create energy from products that would otherwise be wasted. The BioIncentive Program has fostered job creation and unlocked private investment in Minnesota, and CEEM supports fully funding this vital program.
- Invest in system benefits and critical infrastructure: Community resilience is enhanced through smart clean energy investments. Across the state, rural areas, energy cooperatives, and under-resourced communities face challenges related to critical infrastructure. Building clean energy in these communities spurs economic activity and improves community resilience.
- Support workforce development: According to a survey, 86% of clean energy businesses cite hiring challenges. We must ensure the state’s economic recovery includes a strong future workforce supported by registered apprenticeship, training and education programs.
Other key findings:
- Wind jobs in Minnesota (a subsector of renewable energy generation jobs) are growing fast — hitting 8% growth last year.
- More than 1 in 3 clean energy jobs are located in Greater Minnesota.
- In Minnesota there are more clean energy workers than the number of lawyers, accountants and auditors, web developers, and real estate agents combined.
- Businesses project a job growth rate of 8% in the next year.
- Small businesses drive the state’s clean energy sector – in 2020, 71 percent of Minnesota’s clean energy businesses employed fewer than 20 people.
For a full breakdown of clean energy jobs in each sector and for every state in the Midwest, see the detailed breakdowns available at www.cleanjobsmidwest.com – including job totals for every county, congressional district, and state legislative district.
The analysis is based on preliminary employment data collected and analyzed by BW Research Partnership for the 2021 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER, forthcoming). The USEER analyzes data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) to track employment across many energy production, transmission, and distribution subsectors. In addition, the 2021 USEER relies on a unique supplemental survey of 35,000 business representatives across the United States.
Previous E2 and Clean Energy Trust Jobs Reports:
- Clean Jobs Midwest 2020
- Clean Jobs Midwest 2019
- Clean Jobs Midwest 2018
- Clean Jobs Midwest 2017
- Clean Jobs Midwest 2016
- Report: Clean Jobs America 2021 (April 2020)
- Report: Clean Jobs, Better Jobs: An examination of clean energy job wages (October 2020)
- Report: Build Back Better, Faster: How a federal stimulus focusing on clean energy can create millions of jobs and restart America’s economy (July 2020)
- Report: Clean Energy & COVID-19 Economic Crisis, May Impact Analysis (June 2020)
About Clean Energy Economy MN (CEEM): CEEM is an industry-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit representing the business case for clean energy in Minnesota. CEEM provides a unified voice for clean energy business across the state. Our mission is to provide educational leadership, collaboration, and policy analysis that accelerates clean energy market growth and smart energy policies. Learn more at www.cleanenergyeconomymn.org
About Clean Energy Trust (CET):
Clean Energy Trust provides catalytic capital and support to early-stage startups in the Mid-Continent region of the United States working on solutions for clean energy, decarbonization, and environmental sustainability. Based in Chicago, Clean Energy Trust invests in and provides hands-on support to help entrepreneurs scale and succeed. To date, Clean Energy Trust has helped its 33 portfolio companies raise $26 of additional investment for every $1 Clean Energy Trust has invested. Learn more at www.CleanEnergyTrust.org and follow us on Twitter at @cleanenergytrst
About Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2):
Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) is a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. Our members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital. For more information, see www.e2.org.