In the midst of national uncertainty of a new administration’s positions on energy policy, the Midwest is showing that states continue to make pragmatic decisions steering us toward a clean energy future.
Late last year, there were several state legislative victories that underscored that support for the growing clean energy field is bipartisan. Republican Governors in Illinois and Michigan have taken steps to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy by signing bills into law, and in Columbus, Governor Kasich vetoed legislation which would have further stunted clean energy growth.
As we showed in Clean Jobs Midwest, there are over a half a million people working in the 12-state Midwest region in clean energy, and the industry has a projected growth rate of approximately 4.4% in the next year which will bring another 25,000 jobs to the region.
Here is a brief update on those wins:
In Illinois, the Future Energy Jobs Bill was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on December 7. This bill notably fixes the state’s broken renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and increases investments in energy efficiency. Illinois lost close to 600 jobs in the renewable energy last year due to a broken RPS, so this fix is expected to help jumpstart the state’s growing wind and solar business. It is important to note some controversial elements of the bill relating to the future of nuclear power in the state, but overall this piece of legislation is a significant step toward a strong clean energy future.
On December 21st, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill that extended the state’s RPS and the energy efficiency standards. Original versions of the bill included a repeal of both of those policies which helped grow Michigan’s clean energy workforce to the third highest in the region employing over 87,000 people. A diverse group of businesses from across the political spectrum joined environmental and health organizations to get the standards back into the final bill.
Two years ago the wildly successful energy efficiency and renewable energy standards were frozen due to ideological opposition to “mandates”. At the time, major employers and industries spoke out against the temporary freeze due to the chilling effect it would have on Ohio’s economy. Unfortunately, those concerns were born out as Ohio lost over half of their jobs in the renewable energy industry last year. Governor John Kasich noted the negative impact to the state, and promised to veto any attempts to keep those standards frozen. He made good on that promise on December 27th.
The Midwest chapter will continue to monitor these state level policies in 2017. We will also be reaching out to other federal policy makers with your stories and the data that backs up the growing clean energy workforce.