As one of the country’s most manufacturing-heavy states, some green technology stakeholders are concerned that Indiana will not move quickly enough to grow its clean energy jobs. However, a new report from a national non-partisan group shows some encouraging numbers, suggesting Indiana’s economy is getting a bit greener.
E2 bills itself as a group of business leaders and investors advocating for smart policies that benefit the economy and the environment. This is the fourth year it has published a comprehensive report of clean energy jobs in the 12-state Midwest region, using the same data used by the United States Energy Employment report.
In all, the report suggests the Midwest is home to more than 730,000 clean energy jobs, including nearly 87,000 in Indiana. That marks an increase of more than 3,800 jobs over the 2018 numbers. Marion, Elkhart and Lake counties lead the way in clean energy job count.
To put it in perspective, E2 uses some numbers from the Department of Labor Employment Statistics. It says the state’s clean energy workforce is larger than the state’s computer programmers, web developers, lawyers, waiters and waitresses combined.
"Another headline for Indiana is that six out of 10 of these clean energy workers are employed in energy efficiency," says E2 Director of Engagement Gail Parson. "And what that means is these are workers who are making our homes, our schools, office buildings more energy efficient…so people working on heating and cooling, insulation, energy audits, work like that."
Indiana grew 4.7% over the previous year, which Parson calls a "great job growth rate," reflecting the rest of the Midwest.
So what is driving the growth of greener jobs? One major reason, says Parson, is that it makes good economic sense.
"Renewables are more cost-efficient now, more affordable," she says. "I think people have realized that they can save money if they take steps to make their houses more energy efficient. I think businesses, many of our businesses, care about energy efficiency because that can just lower their monthly regular costs of running a business."
Another significant trend is the strength of small businesses in the clean energy field. E2 says 71.9 percent of clean energy businesses in Indiana employ fewer than 20 workers.
Parson says there is reason to be optimistic that the growth trend will continue. While Indiana’s expected growth rate is lower than other states in the region, she says employers remain “bullish” about the industry. And, since Indiana does have such strength in manufacturing, she says there is opportunity for some “retooling” to be more green.
“We’re noticing an increase in electric vehicles and advanced transportation, so making parts for electric vehicles, manufacturing wind turbine blades…there are a lot of jobs in the clean energy sector and states in the Midwest that have manufacturing capabilities are definitely reaping the benefits.”
E2 hopes the numbers are encouraging enough for policymakers to help continue the push through efforts like incentivizing energy efficiency and funding research and development in energy innovation.
Parson says the implication of the numbers is clear. “This field is here and now, and not a thing of the future.”
Parson says one branch of the clean energy industry in Indiana is growing in particular.
Parson says clean energy is becoming more accessible, leading to job growth in the industry.