As the renewable energy revolution spreads across the country, an opportunity is at-hand for Oregon to become a leader in the transition and reap the economic benefits that come with it.

E2’s (Environmental Entrepreneurs) recently released Clean Jobs Oregon report finds that more than 55,000 clean energy jobs are supported by the Oregon economy — with jobs in every one of Oregon’s 36 counties and 30 state senate districts. The report further identifies that Oregon is increasing its workforce in solar, energy efficiency, clean vehicles, wind, and other clean tech. In fact, Oregon’s rural communities boast a clean energy workforce of 11,000 workers, while the state ranks no. 14 in solar jobs and is in the top 21 in six other major clean energy employment categories.

Jeremy Mohr (left) presenting the Clean Jobs Oregon report to legislators in Salem last week.

However, the report also finds that Oregon has additional opportunities to go further and attract more clean energy jobs.

Policies like the Renewables Portfolio Standard, Clean Fuels Program and Coal to Clean are driving local infrastructure projects like solar arrays and wind farms, yet clean energy job opportunities remain untapped in Oregon.

So how can Oregon build a future ready economy that fully leverages its clean energy economy potential?

The most important opportunity in 2019 is for the Oregon state legislature to pass a cap-and-invest policy. Moving forward with a cap-and-invest program now is expected to generate the kinds of private-sector market signals that help attract innovative clean energy companies to Oregon, positioning itself as the best new market for future clean energy investment.

But many other states are likely to pass their own pro-clean economy policies in the coming years as well, which we applaud. Yet, that’s why the opportunity to implement a cap-and-invest program in 2019 presents such a unique opportunity for our state.

Oregonians are staring at a critical economic opportunity in 2019 that may not fully be there in just a few years if we lose our first-mover advantage.

Thankfully, Oregon has experience in the clean energy economy as the no. 21 state in clean energy jobs (despite a population of just 4 million). But lawmakers and leaders in the state have the opportunity to act now thus working to ensure future generations don’t miss out on the prosperity and promise of the clean economy.

Oregon’s 55,000-strong clean energy workforce gives us an inkling of what that promise can be. Simply put, cap-and-invest is a critical next step in securing that future.

Jeremy is a senior project director on WSP’s sustainability and energy team, and has over ten years of experience advising large, complex clients on carbon, energy and climate change.

Oregon Poised to Build on Clean Energy Success in 2019 was originally published in e2org on Medium.