September 13, 2017 Read More →

Policy Momentum in Illinois Toward Renewable- Energy Uptake

Midwest Energy News:

A recent report highlighting the expansion of the clean-energy workforce in Illinois reflects a broader trend toward a Midwestern power system that is more networked, more decentralized, and more dependent on solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

Nearly 120,000 Illinoisans were working in clean energy in 2016, representing a 4.8 percent increase over the prior year, according to a study released last week.

The analysis – which is based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and a survey of thousands – was conducted by Clean Energy Trust (CET), a Chicago-based cleantech accelerator, and Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national group of business leaders that advocates for economic and environmental policies.

Recent legislation and private investments suggest that the clean energy workforce in Illinois will continue to grow.

Many hope last December’s passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act will spark a boom in renewables, efficiency and smart grid activity in the state. The act requires that at least 4,300 megawatts of new solar and wind power be built in Illinois by 2030. It also provides $750 million for programs that provide training for new energy jobs and for utility-bill subsidies for low-income customers, seniors and disabled veterans.

“Illinois is definitely a regional leader,” says Parson. “We expect with the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act that there will be even more growth in the industry. That policy fixes the broken [renewable energy standard] and also is encouraging utilities to do more energy efficiency.”

Earlier this year, utility ComEd doled out $30 million to area business associations to “develop training programs related to solar and energy efficiency as a part of the FEJA’s goal to prepare a workforce ready for the future energy industry.” The utility opened a brand-new training facility last year in southwest Chicago, made possible by the state’s 2011 smart grid law.

Illinois is also gearing up for the launch of NextGrid, an 18-month consumer-focused study of critical issues facing the state’s electric utility industry in the coming decade and beyond. The Illinois Commerce Commission, a regulatory body, is managing the process, and, in August, it was announced that the Power and Energy System Area of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will be the lead facilitator. A launch event is scheduled for September 28.

Smart grid or “advanced grid” jobs make up only a sliver of the Illinois clean economy, the survey found – a mere 1,430 jobs or 1.2 percent of the state’s clean-energy jobs. That figure is up 2.1 percent over the previous year. Over 70 percent of Illinois advanced grid jobs are in energy storage, while the rest are categorized as “smart grid” jobs.

The vast majority – 78.4 percent – of Illinois clean-energy jobs are in the energy efficiency sector. “Traditional HVAC” jobs leads this category and Illinois clean-energy jobs overall, with 36,058 jobs. E2 described the category in an email to Midwest Energy News:

“Jobs in traditional HVAC include technicians that install energy star appliances and count any portion of their work toward advanced efficiency technologies. We find this category helpful because it gives us a sense of how the industry is changing and how more HVAC workers are doing work in energy efficiency.”

More: Advocates expect continued growth in Illinois clean energy jobs

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