Amid the news of the Carrier jobs deal delivered by President-elect Donald Trump and Governor (and Vice President-elect) Mike Pence, a bigger jobs story was playing out with less fanfare. It’s about a major transformation underway in our energy sector that is driving company growth and creating thousands of local jobs that cannot be exported or automated. Indiana is just on the tip of this wave. In fact, the Hoosier State is shaping up as a case study in riding this wave — or letting it pass us by.
An Energy Transformation
Technology innovation and market forces are driving significant change in our energy choices. Natural gas is slowly replacing coal as the source of Indiana’s electricity. In fact, use of natural gas has grown from three percent to 20 percent since 2010.
To our west, Iowa gets more than 30 percent of its power from harnessing the wind. Due to falling prices, wind, solar, and other renewables now account for more than half of the new electric generating capacity installed nationwide this year (and in 2015).
Customers are also spurring these changes. Large corporations now care about the kind of power that runs their operations and they are making procurement decisions accordingly. Seventy-one of Fortune 100 companies have public corporate sustainability goals, renewable energy targets, or both (a ten percent increase from 2014).
One of those companies, Google, announced just this December that it will meet its 100 percent target in 2017. Others include Salesforce, a growing employer in Indianapolis, and Amazon Web Services, which worked with Pattern Energy to develop a wind farm in Benton County.
Energy innovation and diversification represent a tremendous opportunity for Indiana. As companies evaluate where to locate or expand operations, our ability to help them achieve their goals will lead to more jobs, an expanding economy, and enhance our global reputation as a terrific place to do business.
The trend towards electric transportation is getting stronger as well. We now see hybrid and electric cars on our streets and highways. A new Ohio-based company, Workhorse, produces electric-powered delivery trucks for clients like FedEx and UPS, and has plans to build a new line of four-wheel-drive electric pickup trucks here in Indiana at a plant acquired from Navistar International.
Across the nation, more than 2.5 million people are now employed in advanced energy—a market that reached $200 billion in U.S. revenue last year. That’s bigger than pharmaceutical manufacturing and approaching the level of consumer electronics.
Big Business for Indiana
As this market shift evolves, Indiana can get ahead of the energy curve – or fall behind. Today, across our state, 48,000 people are employed in the advanced energy sector. Hoosiers make buildings more energy efficient; deploy advanced electricity generation like solar, wind, hydro, and natural gas; produce advanced fuels like ethanol; and lead the way regarding advanced transportation like electric and natural gas-powered vehicles.
One in every 50 workers in Indiana is employed in advanced energy. Some of these employers have been here for decades, like Landis+Gyr, a leading global provider of metering, hardware, software, and communications for electric, gas, and water utilities, which has been in Lafayette since 1901. Others are newcomers like wind developer Pattern Energy; CLEAResult, a firm that helps utilities, businesses, and individuals implement energy efficiency programs; and Ameresco, a global company that helps companies and institutions modernize their energy systems. All these companies bring new energy technologies and services to Indiana, saving money for customers, creating jobs, and contributing to their communities.
How can we make sure Indiana captures its fair share of this growing market? First, we must inform our communities, businesses, and state leaders about the energy transformation and the opportunity it presents. Second, we need to work with our new governor and the legislature to identify the best ways to reduce market barriers and maximize market potential for advanced energy companies. Finally, we must see this not as an energy issue, but as a business opportunity to capture and implement the benefits of technology innovation for our citizens and our workforce.
One thing is clear; our energy sector transformation is not going away. For the sake of Hoosier jobs, and generations of Hoosiers to come, Indiana must do what it always does: take the lead to do what’s best for all of us.
Greg Ballard, the former mayor of Indianapolis, is a senior fellow for the business group Indiana Advanced Energy Economy.