Inside Washington, important issues are often reduced to simplistic talking points for the “either/or” soundbite like, tackling climate change or having jobs. On this Earth Day, I want to debunk that myth and share some good news: the U.S. renewable energy industry is surging in states across our country and putting Americans – in red states and blue states - to work producing energy in our communities that is American, clean, and more reliable than fossil fuels.
Earlier this year, ITI partnered with the Retail Industry Leaders Association on a groundbreaking study that established that states that adopt policies to encourage clean, domestic energy production are also the most likely to attract new businesses, creating thousands of good-paying jobs in their local communities. In what may have surprised those who use a ‘blue state’ or ‘red state’ lens, the Midwest did extremely well in this survey. Specifically, regarding the ease in which major companies can procure domestic renewable energy such as solar and wind for their operations. Iowa and Illinois captured the top two places in the index, scoring well in both deployment and policy indicators, while Ohio placed eighth.
These clean energy policies and practices also have a multiplier effect because they attract new businesses—including tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. These companies aim to invest and locate their operations in states with clean energy production to avoid fossil fuel price volatility and pollution concerns, and to meet their commitments to customers and communities. High demand for renewable energy from the tech and retail sectors also pushes down prices, making clean energy even more attractive to other consumers.
The economic data also show that U.S. renewable energy is not just good for the environment: renewable energy jobs benefit Americans from coast to coast and everywhere in between. This includes significant leasing fees paid to farmers and throughout rural communities for the placement of wind turbines. Over the past decade, we have seen a rapid growth in the United States’ renewable energy industry. A new report found that clean energy jobs employ four million Americans, up from 3.4 million in 2011. And there are estimates that solar and wind jobs are growing at a rate 12 times as fast as the rest of the U.S. economy. These jobs also pay well. For instance, renewable energy jobs tend to pay $5,000 more than the median U.S. salary, and wages for solar workers are above the national median of $17.04 per hour. The best part is that these jobs are in every single state.
We need energy, we need to reduce pollution, and we need jobs. Fortunately, when we in the tech sector are faced with a challenge, we fearlessly innovate to unlock new opportunities for all. The tech industry is creating jobs in the renewable energy sector not only because it will make the air we breathe, the land we use, and the water we drink cleaner, but because it is good for our economy and for American workers.