Until last year, Minnesota had year-over-year clean-energy job growth since it started being tracked in 2015 by the Clean Jobs Midwest Report. Despite a steep job decline when the pandemic first hit, the sector bounced back in the second half of 2020 with a 10% increase in job growth — twice as fast as overall state job growth.

In fact, Duluth is home to 1,632 clean-energy jobs.

I work for the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, or RREAL, straight outta Backus, Minnesota, south of Walker. Our passion is bringing the health, environmental, and economic benefits of solar to Minnesota families and communities.

According to this year’s Clean Jobs Midwest Report, last year a whopping 86% of clean-energy employers said it was somewhat or very difficult to find qualified candidates. To me, that sounds like an opportunity. It’s why we are partnering with the White Earth Tribal and Community College to create an accredited solar program that will launch in fall 2022. It’s why we have our own solar design and installation partner company, REALSolar, and why we are co-creating a new majority Native-owned renewable-energy contracting firm at White Earth. We’re even in the final stages of completing a new K-8 solar curriculum with Minnesota Extension. We’ve got to start earlier with kids.

As a rural-based outfit, we know Minnesota’s clean-energy economy isn’t just growing in the Twin Cities; it’s happening across the state. Did you know that one in three clean-energy jobs are located in Greater Minnesota? I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the either/or, urban/rural divide. We currently have a chance to create a both/and dynamic together as we add new clean energy to all of Minnesota’s grid and grow well-paying jobs as we do it.

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John Vaughn

Backus, Minnesota

The writer is executive director of RREAL, or the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (rreal.org)

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