MN clean-energy sector finds its footing again, adding jobs

MGN

After a down period during the pandemic, Minnesota has moved back into positive territory with annual clean-energy jobs data. The report from Clean Energy Economy Minnesota said the sector saw a 5% increase in job growth last year, with more than 2,600 workers added.

Some of the biggest gains were in solar and advanced transportation, which includes manufacturing components for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

Amelia Cerling Hennes, director of communications and public affairs for Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, said the rebound is important, because of the anticipated infusion of climate-related projects from policies like the federal Inflation Reduction Act.

“The state has built a solid foundation for unprecedented job and economic growth, paired with the money that’s coming from that bill, because we’re talking about billions of dollars,” Cerling Hennes said.

The group wants to see state and federal agencies work closely with the industry to ensure those extra investments reach their full potential. She added collaboration could help the state move faster in getting back to pre-pandemic job levels, and noted it is a year or two away from closing the gap.

Andy Kim, president of the engineering firm EVS, said last year’s growth aligns with his company’s expectations for the industry. As it helps with clean-energy projects, Kim said EVS has a goal this year to hire an additional 50 staff members.

“I really believe that the jobs in this clean-energy industry are really good jobs,” Kim emphasized. “We’re doing work that has a big impact. On top of that, the career growth and opportunities; it’s something I’ve never seen before.”

Labor analysts say it is not just manufacturing and installation work, research, design and consulting services also are needed to help with the clean energy transition. But Kim acknowledged, like other industries, finding enough workers is a challenge right now, especially since renewables are not as well established as other professions.

Supporters of adding more resources like wind and solar said prioritizing training and apprenticeships can help on that front.

Mike Moen writes for the Minnesota News Connection.

Have an opinion? Share it below.