Report: Illinois' clean energy jobs grew by 3% in 2022
With the energy efficiency sector leading the charge, Illinois clean energy businesses created more than 3,600 jobs last year, according to a report released Tuesday.
Jobs in clean energy -- such as coordinating solar panel developments, installing energy efficient HVAC systems and planning electric vehicle charging infrastructure -- grew by 3% in 2022 from 2021 numbers, the analysis from climate policy group Environmental Entrepreneurs reports.
Though energy efficiency made up over 80,000 of Illinois' 123,799 clean energy jobs, the fast-growing sector was clean transportation like electric vehicle manufacturing. With 6.9% growth, the sector added nearly 900 new jobs for a total of 13,968 workers.
"It's a really good time to be in this space, and we're excited about the growth potential of the industry, especially as federal and state investments start to bear fruit," Ian Adams, managing director at Evergreen Climate Innovations, said at a news conference Tuesday.
The report was co-released by Environmental Entrepreneurs and Evergreen Climate Innovations, a nonprofit that invests in climate technology businesses.
Illinois was a close runner-up to Michigan, which leads the Midwest with 123,983 clean energy jobs. While Illinois is in the top ranks among other states, advocates say there's still work to do.
"We need to ensure that we continue to keep our eye on the ball to make the most of this opportunity," said Micaela Preskill, the Midwest Advocate for Environmental Entrepreneurs. "With all this federal investment, states should pass policies that will help them leverage (it). In Illinois, for example, that means adopting clean car standards and cleaning Chicago's building sector."
Thanks largely to the passage of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act two years ago, Illinois has been well-positioned as a leader in cutting climate emissions from the power sector, Preskill said. The omnibus clean energy bill requires the state's utilities to get 40% of their power from renewable sources by 2030, for instance.
"But there's more that we need to do in Illinois beyond tackling emissions from the power sector," she said. "Some of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions are transportation and buildings."
To tackle these sectors, Preskill said her organization has zeroed in on two opportunities: Chicago can adopt an electrification ordinance and Illinois can adopt California's Advanced Clean Truck rule.
The electrification ordinance would ban fossil fuels like natural gas from use in newly built homes and commercial buildings. It's a step that Oak Park took earlier this year, becoming the first town in the Midwest to do so.
"We are advocating that the city of Chicago take a big step in the right direction by requiring that newly constructed buildings be all-electric," Preskill said. "When we look to electrifying the building sector, we're supporting what is the biggest part of the clean energy industry already, which is energy efficiency. We need people to be going into homes to be updating windows, updating installation, making them more comfortable, healthier and also, of course, use less energy."
While Oak Park is the first city in the state and the Midwest to pass such an ordinance, the practice is becoming more and more common in cities from states like Washington, Massachusetts and California, including Los Angeles, and New York is poised to become the first state to ban new natural gas hookups following New York City's similar legislation that passed in 2021.
Meanwhile on the transportation side, the Advanced Clean Truck rule is a new emissions standard that would require manufacturers of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to increase sales of electric and other zero-emission models within the state over time.
Created by California, the rule would begin ramping up in 2024 and by 2035 would require 40% of new semi-truck sales, 55% of new pickup truck and van sales, and 75% of new straight truck sales to be zero-emission or near-zero-emission.
"We fully support the Advanced Clean Trucks movement in the state of Illinois as we have across the United States," said Nate Baguio, senior vice president of commercial development at Lion Electric at Tuesday's news conference. The Canadian-based commercial vehicle manufacturer recently opened the largest medium- and heavy-duty all-electric manufacturing plant in the nation, in Joliet.
"When you look at community impacts, it's not just air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, but it's noise pollution. Early morning deliveries in an electric truck are going to be much more friendly to communities, and we're ready to build these here in the Midwest," Bagio added.
• Jenny Whidden, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a climate change and environment writer working with the Daily Herald through a partnership with Report For America supported by The Nature Conservancy. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see dailyherald.com/rfa.