Lewis Diuguid

New report shows Missouri fertile to grow more green energy jobs

A modern wind turbine spins by a tower of power lines at the first commercial wind power project in Missouri, which has proven to be an economic boon to residents in King City, Mo. Tax dollars are rolling in, tourists are frequenting stores and restaurants and locals are now planning to build a visitors center. The clean energy project — vilified in some parts of the Midwest because of, among other reasons, the noise — has pumped life into this once-dying community. Many place great hope in wind farms to produce cleaner energy that will replace some of the need for coal-fired power plants.
A modern wind turbine spins by a tower of power lines at the first commercial wind power project in Missouri, which has proven to be an economic boon to residents in King City, Mo. Tax dollars are rolling in, tourists are frequenting stores and restaurants and locals are now planning to build a visitors center. The clean energy project — vilified in some parts of the Midwest because of, among other reasons, the noise — has pumped life into this once-dying community. Many place great hope in wind farms to produce cleaner energy that will replace some of the need for coal-fired power plants. The Kansas City Star

On this eve of Earth Day, it is important to note that the state of Missouri has planted strong roots in the green economy.

A new report from E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) and MEI (the Missouri Energy Initiative) shows that nearly 40,000 people in more than 4,400 establishments in the state are employed in green sectors of the economy.

“This number is roughly double Iowa’s clean energy and transportation workforce but less than half the workers in Illinois and Massachusetts, suggesting room for growth,” the report says.

Missouri’s clean energy and transportation industry includes renewable energy, energy efficiency, advanced transportation and greenhouse gas emissions management and accounting.

“The energy efficiency sector employs 32,576 clean energy workers, which is 83 percent of all clean energy jobs in Missouri,” the report notes. “Renewable energy firms account for 15 percent of clean energy employment, or 6,050 workers — 3,715 of whom are solar employees.”

Those are quietly impressive employment numbers that more people should know ahead of Earth Day.

“Missouri’s clean energy economy experienced a 4.8 percent employment growth, creating 2,000 additional jobs, between 2013 and 2014,” the report said. “Most new positions in the last 12 months have been technician and production workers, concentrated in the installation and manufacturing sector. Firms also remain confident about future growth projections, with 37.6 percent of businesses expecting to add 3,000 new clean energy workers in the next 12 months (a growth of 7.1 percent).”

Diversity also is a factor in filling the new jobs — 25 percent of the people hired in the last 12 months have been women, 39.3 percent were ethnic minorities and 13.6 percent were veterans.

“Missouri’s clean energy and transportation sector is locally focused, with 70.2 percent reporting primarily in-state customers and 44.2 percent supporting in-state vendors,” the report said. “Clean energy and transportation is the predominant source of revenue for roughly 40 percent of businesses, while 48 percent earn more than half of their revenue from other sources. Sales and installation represent the main sector in the state, accounting for 54.2 percent of businesses.”

The Kansas City area is home to 22 percent of the businesses; the St. Louis area, 37 percent. In the Kansas City area there are 936 clean energy establishments, employing 8,507 people. The St. Louis area has 1,653 clean energy establishments, employing 14,459 people.

Bob Keefe, executive director of E2, and Josh Campbell, executive director of MEI, say in the report that Kansas City is among metropolitan areas that are helping building owners and tenants use energy smarter. They note that “the state is at a crossroads.”

“Missouri utilities are diversifying away from their current demand on coal, which currently generates 83 percent of the state’s electricity,” Keefe and Campbell note. “As it diversifies its portfolio, the state’s local 275,000 MW of wind power potential, including many potential wind sites in close proximity to Kansas City, is an attractive, undeveloped resource.”

A downside is solar energy rebates dried up in 2013, meeting the 1 percent cost cap mandated by Missouri’s renewable energy standard, forcing some companies to consider shifting to more secure segments in the energy efficiency industry. But clean energy and transportation industry overall are expected to continue to grow in Missouri adding to a more diverse economy in the state.

That should result in better air, land and water quality and more positive green energy news for future Earth Days.

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