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In Response: Clean-energy jobs market is actually robust, growing

In the April 20 "Statewide View" column in the News Tribune, "Don't believe inflated clean-energy jobs projections," a writer from the Center of the American Experiment presented a bleak view — with dubious support — about a great economic story in our state: clean energy job growth.

The fact is the number of clean-energy jobs has grown every year since the release of the first Clean Jobs Midwest-Minnesota report in 2016, and these good-paying jobs have been added at a faster pace than the statewide average. Jobs have continued to grow as businesses and energy consumers demand more clean-energy options that work with their bottom lines.

The analysis expanded on data from the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report and showed clean-energy jobs exist across the state, with nearly 40 percent of the jobs in outstate Minnesota.

While the commentary chose to quibble with the types of jobs included as clean-energy jobs, the rigorous methodologies used to gather and analyze the data are well known. This data is industry standard, widely used by experts, and the U.S. Department of Energy and the Office of Management and Budget approved the research methods.

Furthermore, our report shed light on all sectors of the growing clean-energy economy — not just those that "most people" think of, as the column stated — like wind and solar installers.

The overwhelming number of clean-energy jobs in Minnesota are in energy efficiency. These are the professionals who help our homes and businesses use energy more wisely. Minnesota has saved more than $6 billion in the last 20 years from energy-conservation programs, all while avoiding greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a Minnesota Department of Commerce report.

We're also proud that Minnesota was ranked eighth in the nation by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy for our energy-efficiency programs and policies. That ranking is further bolstered by an expanding workforce that is developing and implementing energy-efficiency solutions that are helping to save our neighbors and businesses money. Apparently, the Center of the American Experiment does not share that pride.

Minnesota's clean-energy companies know that growth opportunities are abundant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, America's two fastest-growing occupations through 2026 are solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians, jobs that can't be outsourced. In Minnesota, solar photovoltaic installer is the fastest-growing job, according to Yahoo Finance. And our businesses are feeling the demand. One St. Paul-based solar-installation company is reporting 50 percent job growth this year alone.

Our report also found that clean-energy employers have a positive outlook for the next year and expect to add 4,400 jobs in 2019, a 7.3 percent growth rate.

The Center of the American Experiment seems to believe that despite such explosive job growth, some of these jobs are "temporary." In our view, no one should so easily dismiss the significant economic indicators the clean-energy industry is experiencing.

Businesses want cost-effective clean energy. The Center of the American Experiment perspective seems to be that businesses are victimized by clean-energy policies. In contrast, over 70 percent of Fortune 100 and nearly half of Fortune 500 companies have set clean-energy goals or sustainability targets. More than 150 private companies have committed to 100 percent clean energy, including Google, Ikea, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, GM, and Coca-Cola. In Minnesota, businesses such as 3M, Aveda, Best Buy, Cargill, Ecolab, HealthPartners, and Target increasingly collaborate to expand access to cost-effective clean energy. These are players in dynamic industries who view clean energy as a way to better control their energy use while saving on their energy costs.

Furthermore, energy utilities also are turning to clean energy. Xcel Energy, serving more than 3.6 million people across eight states, including 1.2 million here in Minnesota, aims to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Despite the Center of the American Experiment's claims of skyrocketing costs, Xcel says, "We believe that we can reliably and cost-effectively cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030 with ... technologies available today." I'll take the utility's word for it, which is informed by market data and customer feedback.

In the end, the data is clear and not "inflated." Clean-energy jobs in Minnesota are on the rise, and businesses are bullish on the prospects of continued growth and viability here in the state. We think that's great for Minnesota.

Gregg Mast is executive director of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, based in Minneapolis.

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