New report points to potential for clean energy job growth in Illinois
Clean energy sees first recorded drop in overall jobs, yet policies like the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) hold promise for unparalleled growth in years ahead
Sector recovered 7,000 jobs since unemployment peaked in Q2
CHICAGO (Apr. 22, 2021) – Clean energy jobs surged nearly 7 percent in the second half of 2020 to employ more than 115,00 Illinoisans across the state, according to the sixth annual Clean Jobs America report from E2. Despite dropping clean energy jobs overall in 2020 due to the pandemic-fueled economic crisis, Illinois’ ranking among states actually improved as the state now has the most clean energy jobs in the Midwest and fifth most nationwide.
The report, released at the start of US Climate Action Week in Washington, DC., comes as the Illinois legislature considers comprehensive clean energy legislation in the final weeks of this year’s legislative session.
“Clean energy is one of Illinois’s most promising industries and with the right policies in place, it can be a critical part of our state’s economic recovery” said Senator Adriane Johnson (D-Buffalo Grove). “Policies like the Clean Energy Jobs Act will provide long-term market certainty for clean energy companies to locate and grow in Illinois.”
“Illinois is looking towards a recovery and it’s clear that we should prioritize industries that were booming before the pandemic,” said Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights). “The clean energy industry should be at the top of the list. The shift to a cleaner economy would create new major opportunities for job seekers all throughout the state and now is the right time to take action.”
Like most of the economy, clean energy was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn in 2020. At one point more than 17,000 clean energy workers in Illinois had filed for unemployment. Nationally, the sector began to rebound after May and half of the jobs lost at the peak of unemployment have now been recovered. Illinois has rebounded with 40 percent of jobs now recovered, helping the state improve its national ranking to fifth despite losing just over 10,000 clean energy jobs overall.
“Illinois must continue to create opportunities for clean energy job growth,” says Ky Ajayi, President of Central Road Energy LLC in Bloomington, IL. “Our country is moving towards a clean economy and if Illinois doesn’t act, it will fall behind states like Wisconsin and Michigan. The Clean Energy Jobs Act is the type of policy that will give companies confidence to set up shop and do business in Illinois, not only because of the incentives for solar but also the resources going to train up a new generation of clean energy workers. Thanks to the workforce development programs we have today, I’ve seen first-hand how access to clean energy jobs can change lives.”
The drop in total clean energy employment in 2020 was the first decline the industry has recorded since E2 began producing its annual Clean Jobs America reports in 2016 and is a dramatic change of pace for the industry. In 2019, for example, clean energy jobs grew 5 times as fast as overall statewide employment.
“Clean energy already employs over 115,000 Illinoisans,” said Rep. Lakesia Collins (D-Chicago). “We have the opportunity to create an environment that will lead to tremendous job creation, if we act now. Legislation like the Clean Energy Jobs Act will create jobs in a wide range of clean energy-related fields, from electricians to construction laborers to manufacturers.”
According to the analysis, energy efficiency jobs saw the biggest drop, declining about 11 percent over the year as workers were prevented from entering homes and offices because of the pandemic lockdowns. Still, energy efficiency accounts for an even greater share of U.S. construction jobs, employing about one in every five construction workers nationwide. Other clean energy sectors also saw declines in 2020, including grid and storage (7 percent), and clean fuels (2.3 percent). Renewable energy shrank by roughly 1 percent.
“I own a company that provides energy efficiency services throughout Chicagoland – from the installation of smart thermostats for senior citizens to shipping and packing energy efficiency kits to utility customers,” says Maria Onesto Moran, Owner of Green Home Experts in Lyons, IL. “My company is an example of the industry’s growth potential. Five years ago I was the only employee and now we have 38 staff. The Clean Energy Jobs Act sets the energy efficiency industry up to continue to grow, create jobs, and provide new opportunities to communities of color. If our lawmakers act now, clean energy can be a key part of Illinois’s post pandemic future and economic recovery.”
One of the few bright spots was in manufacturing of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, where about 600 jobs were added as an increasing number of automakers announced shifts to producing 100 percent zero-emission vehicles.
E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) 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 or follow us on Twitter at @e2org.
The report’s 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.
- 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)
- Report: Clean Jobs America 2020 (April 2020)
- Report: Clean Jobs, Better Jobs: An examination of clean energy job wages (October 2020)
- Industry Letter: Nearly 400 Business Leaders to Biden: Cut Emissions 50% by 2030 (April 2021)