While efforts are underway in Washington and St. Paul to roll-back solar and wind energy efforts and return to a coal-and-oil future for domestic energy, a Minnesota group says renewable energy is creating thousands of jobs in the state.
Minnesota now has more than 100 companies serving wind power and solar energy markets in manufacturing, financing, designing, engineering, installing and maintaining renewable energy projects, according to a study released Thursday by the Environmental Law & Policy Center.
The report identified 82 companies involved in the solar power supply chain and 49 companies involved in the wind energy supply chain.
That includes wind-involved companies like Minnesota Power/Allete and Ventura Wind in Duluth as well as solar-involved companies like Energy Conservation Services in Carlton, Silicon Energy in Mountain Iron, Harvest Energy Solutions in Duluth and Conservation Technologies in Hermantown.
"When a new solar installation or wind farm is built in Minnesota, the economic impact of that project goes well beyond the community that will be delivered the construction jobs and new tax revenue from the project, there can be a web of economic activity that extends across the state," Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in a statement. "Wind power and solar energy development drives economic and job growth. Every renewable energy project requires engineering, financial, manufacturing and construction businesses and workers."
A 2016 study by the group Clean Energy Trust found 5,438 renewable energy jobs in Minnesota at the time.
The group is pushing to retain state and federal tax benefits, rebates and incentives that favor wind and solar, making them more affordable and attractive to consumers when compared to fossil fuels that spew carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most scientists who study the issue say is causing global climate change.
The report was released at the Capitol in St. Paul where House Minnesota Minority Leader Melissa Hortman lauded the robust growth of the state's renewable energy sector.
"The benefits of building renewable energy projects are clear. Companies have brought job opportunities and made investments in local communities where they are constructing renewable energy projects," Hortman, DFL- Brooklyn Park, said in a statement. "We should not take steps that threaten to roll back our progress or reduce jobs and economic growth in our renewable energy sector."
The group said proposals in the 2017 Legislature could create new hurdles for renewable energy development in the state and reduce clean energy jobs here.