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Clean energy jobs increasing in Minnesota

Minnesota's so-called "clean energy'' industry sectors now account for 54,000 jobs in the state and will grow by another 2,300 jobs this year, according to a report from the Clean Energy Trust.

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Minnesota's so-called "clean energy'' industry sectors now account for 54,000 jobs in the state and will grow by another 2,300 jobs this year, according to a report from the Clean Energy Trust.

About 1,527 of Minnesota's clean energy jobs are in the Duluth area. The analysis, released Tuesday, is based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and a comprehensive survey of thousands of businesses across Minnesota and the Midwest by the group.

Clean energy sectors now employ nearly 570,000 people in the Midwest in renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, advanced grid, clean fuels and advanced transportation jobs.

Small businesses drive the sector in Minnesota with nearly 80 percent of clean energy businesses employing fewer than 25 people.

Renewable energy generation jobs account for more than 5,300 jobs in Minnesota - including about 2,700 in solar and 2,100 in wind, with the remainder of the jobs in geothermal and bioenergy. But energy efficiency was by far the largest statewide employer among clean energy sectors with more than 47,000 employees - about 87 percent of all clean energy jobs. Workers in this sector are employed in areas such as high-efficiency lighting, Energy Star appliance manufacturing and high-efficiency HVAC services to reduce wasted energy in homes, schools and businesses.

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Clean energy jobs are expected to grow at about 4.4 percent per year in the coming decade, nearly on pace with the 4.8 percent growth of health care predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's among the fastest growing sectors and far outpaces overall job growth projected to rise at just 0.5 percent per year.

"This report affirms that Minnesota's commitment to clean energy benefits not only our health and environment, but also our economy," said Lt. Governor Tina Smith, in a statement. "Despite this progress, we can't let up now. We must continue to pursue bold action to alleviate climate change and ensure that Minnesota is positioned to lead the clean energy revolution, reaping the benefits of good new jobs along the way."

Smith and others have credited Minnesota's mandated laws requiring the state move to 25 percent renewable fuels for electricity by 2025.

Beth Soholt, executive director of the group Wind on the Wires, noted that the increase in jobs and clean energy produced has been helped along by falling costs for both wind and solar as compared to fossil fuels.

"Wind energy costs have dropped by 66 percent over the past six years, and solar costs have declined 53 percent since 2010. These dramatic reductions in cost are likely to drive further development, and increase the number of good-paying, family-supporting renewable energy jobs along the way," Soholt said.

The Chicago-based nonprofit Clean Energy Trust invests in developing clean energy technology companies.

Clean energy supporters on Tuesday also announced the formation of a new Minnesota-based group, Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, an industry-focused nonprofit. Its board of directors includes representatives from Cargill, Ever-Green Energy, Mortenson Construction, TruNorth Solar, Werner Electric and the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas.

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