Clean Energy Sweeps Across Rural America

Credit: NREL

Clean energy deployment has expanded rapidly over the past decade, and the analysis in this report demonstrates that this growth has created jobs, supported infrastructure development, and provided new opportunities to build thriving economies throughout the rural Midwest. In 2017, Midwestern wind and solar energy capacity grew to 31 gigawatts, 24 of which are located in rural places.

The wind and solar industries, along with other renewable energy resources, energy efficiency companies, and the advanced transportation sector, have created a booming clean energy economy that supports about 158,000 jobs throughout the rural Midwest. More people were employed by clean energy than by fossil fuel power plants, extraction, refinement, and transportation combined in 10 of 12 Midwestern states in 2017. Growth in these clean energy jobs outpaced growth in the rest of the economy in every Midwestern state in 2016—and five Midwestern states experienced job growth of an impressive 7 or 8 percent.

The progress is tremendous—but it cannot stop here. Federal leaders must continue to increase funding for clean energy research, development, and demonstration projects and protect programs that will continue to bring down the cost of clean energy and provide access to more people. State and local policymakers should also work hard to support clean energy and bring benefits to more rural constituents, by setting strong targets, pushing utilities to respond to the call for more clean, affordable energy, and ensuring equitable access to clean and inexpensive electricity.

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