Signs of progress in our clean energy economy abound. Businesses are creating new jobs; consumers are saving money and have more choices, while renewable energy is becoming a greater part of the energy mix. These were among some of the key findings in this year’s Solar Jobs Census and Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. Together, the facts show how innovation in our energy choices has benefited communities & families.
Leading the Nation in Renewable Energy
Thanks to years of successful bipartisan efforts to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy, the power sector is changing quickly in the Midwest, and our region serves as a national model. Consider this:
- The region employs over a half a million workers in the clean energy sector, including renewable energy generation, clean transmission, energy efficiency, clean fuels, and advanced transportation.
- Solar jobs jumped 44 percent in Minnesota in 2016.
- We’re spending less of our total household budget on energy than we have at any time in the last sixty years, less than four percent of total household income.
- Wind prices in Minnesota are competitive with the cost of new combined cycle natural gas plants, without subsidies.
- Iowa and Illinois lead the country as the most attractive states for corporate consumers interested in procuring renewable energy.
Advancing Clean Energy Leadership
We celebrate the progress our region has made so far, and know we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Since its launch in 2013, McKnight’s Midwest Climate & Energy program has invested $60 million in grants aimed at enabling communities, businesses, and individuals to use efficient, reliable clean energy technologies that can create greater economic and community prosperity. Among the complementary strategies McKnight is supporting to advance Midwest clean energy leadership are:
- Fostering new business models that align utility financial incentives with achieving a sustainable, low-carbon energy system. Grantee spotlight: Great Plains Institute
- Advancing clean energy policies that provide clear, long-term market signals that drive clean energy investment. Grantee spotlight: Energy Foundation
- Ensuring equitable access to a clean energy future. Grantee spotlight: Rural Renewable Energy Alliance
- Building local clean energy leadership throughout communities in Minnesota. Grantee spotlight: iMatter
- Enabling private sector access to clean energy and leadership. Grantee spotlight: Ceres
- Accelerating the pace of decarbonization in the electric sector, while expanding to other sectors that are dependent on fossil fuels – including transportation – and supporting their transition to new sources of clean electricity. Grantee spotlight: Fresh Energy
Minnesota has made progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. Renewable energy is more cost-competitive than ever. And despite the continued gridlock in national politics, now is not the time to be dissuaded. The work that lays before us includes addressing barriers to integrating higher levels of clean energy into the grid, supporting the unique needs of communities transitioning away from fossil energy, and powering other parts of the economy – like transportation and heating – with clean electricity. We take seriously the threats posed by greenhouse gas emissions, and simultaneously recognize the opportunities presented by a clean energy economy for our state and the upper Midwest. While we have come far as a region in a short period of time, we must raise our collective ambition and accelerate our progress so that our state and region benefit long into the future.