Data from 2017 shows that there are now nearly four times as many people working in the clean energy sector than the fossil fuels sector in Illinois, according to the new Clean Jobs Midwest analysis of energy jobs data from the Clean Energy Trust (CET) and the national, nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). Illinois is leading the Midwest in renewable energy jobs, thanks in large part to the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) that fixed the renewable portfolio standard and will lead to a boom in renewable energy projects in Illinois. The new law also increases energy efficiency standards that will result in lower energy bills for customers, less carbon climate-changing pollution, and more.
Illinois experienced over a 7% increase in renewable energy jobs from 2016 to 2017 and added more total renewable jobs than any other state in the Midwest. That translates to over a thousand new jobs in one year, and the clean energy industry is still hiring in Illinois. Although FEJA is still relatively new, there has been a lot of progress in implementing the new law, and clean energy businesses are preparing for the next phase.
Illinois’ comprehensive energy law also has provisions for clean energy training programs that give priority to communities that may be left out of this expanding economy. The first set of graduates finished these training programs and will likely either join the growing workforce or start their own clean energy businesses. And according to the new report, small businesses play a significant role in Illinois’s clean energy economy. The majority of clean energy businesses in Illinois employ less than 20 people.
The state is poised to expand its clean energy workforce in coming years, which already employs close to 120,000 people. But Illinois cannot stop here, it should look to implement policies that will ensure Illinois is an economic leader well into the future. Illinois should commit to further growth in sectors such as renewables, energy efficiency and clean transportation.