Clean energy job sector trying to recover from pandemic

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(The Center Square) – The COVID-19 pandemic hit the clean energy job market hard, with more than 17,000 workers at one point filing for unemployment. But the industry appears to be on the rebound.

According to the nonpartisan business group E2, or Environmental Entrepreneurs, more than 115,000 Illinoisans worked in the clean energy sector at the end of last year, with workers in all of the state’s 102 counties.

The final 2020 job numbers show an 8.2% drop in Illinois’ clean energy workforce from 2019, representing more than 10,000 jobs. In the three years leading up to 2020, clean energy jobs grew five times as fast as overall job employment.

Micaela Preskill, Midwest advocate for E2, said Illinois can take advantage of the sector’s high job growth potential.

“To grow clean energy jobs, our lawmakers in Washington and the state capitol must take bold action to support and invest in clean energy and clean vehicles,” Preskill said.

According to a report by Clean Jobs Midwest, energy efficiency, Illinois’ largest clean energy employer, now employs 80,671. The sector was hardest hit during the pandemic, losing over 10,000 jobs or 11.4% of its total workforce.

The majority of clean energy jobs in Illinois were in manufacturing and construction. Phil Jordan, vice president at BW Research, said keeping clean energy manufacturing jobs here is important for the economy.

“When you have a focus on domestic supply chains, … we are really thinking about strengthening manufacturing and services and having those products manufactured here in the U.S.,” Jordan said.

Renewable energy now employs more than 17,000 Illinoisans, including about 9,000 in wind and over 5,500 in solar.

Among advanced transportation subsectors, hybrid cars and EV’s were the state’s bright spots. Hybrid vehicle manufacturing employees grew by 9% to 5,072 workers. EV sector jobs grew by 12% to 2,614 workers.

“These jobs prove to be resilient, rebounding faster than the overall MIdwest workforce,” said Ian Adams, managing director at Clean Energy Trust. “We see the clean energy industry as ripe with opportunity for innovation and growth.”

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