Can clean jobs drive Ohio’s employment future?
A worker installs a solar panel on a rooftop. Getty Images.
My first job as a policy analyst was with a group called the American Jobs Project. We were a group of researchers and graduate students at UC Berkeley working under the guidance of former Michigan Governor and now Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm to understand the possibility of clean jobs in the United States.
In this position, I drove across Ohio interviewing people in the clean energy and manufacturing sectors about the wind and advanced manufacturing industries.
A decade ago, a lot of these ideas seemed abstract. Many parts of these industries were starting to get footing, but there had been starts and stops in Ohio’s clean energy industries.
I was excited recently to come across last month’s Clean Jobs America 2023 report. In this report, researchers found Ohio is home to over 110,000 clean energy jobs. These jobs make up over a third of the energy jobs in Ohio despite renewable energy only generating 4% of electricity in the state.
About 76,000 of these jobs were in energy efficiency with the rest made up of clean vehicle, renewable energy, storage and grid, and biofuels jobs.
Maybe more importantly, the number of clean jobs available is outstripping the general growth in employment in Ohio. While statewide job growth in 2022 was 2.1%, clean job growth was over double the rate at 4.6%.
The fastest-growing clean job subsectors were clean vehicles (13.0%), storage and grid (7.7%), and renewable energy (6.7%). Each of these grew three times faster or more than statewide employment.
An especially promising element of clean job growth is their concentration in industries that support working-class professions. About half of Ohio’s clean jobs are in the construction industry and another quarter are in the manufacturing industry. These jobs also support white-collar employment: about 15% of these jobs are in the professional services industry.
Breaking down Ohio’s energy efficiency jobs, they are split pretty evenly between efficient lighting, traditional HVAC, renewable HVAC, and advanced materials jobs. This indicates Ohio’s energy efficiency employment is diversified and split between upgrading existing infrastructure and building new infrastructure.
Over the past two years, Ohio’s clean energy employment has grown from 103,000 to 114,000 and its clean vehicle employment has grown from 16,000 to 22,000. And while its fossil fuel employment has hovered around 30,000, its gas and diesel vehicle employment has grown from 119,000 to 130,000.
If lawmakers in Ohio want the state to be a leader in the growing clean job market, it has options at its disposal.
Strengthening Ohio’s renewable portfolio standard will spur job growth in the renewable energy sector and help ease Ohio’s transition from a fossil fuel dependent electricity market to a more diversified market.
Joining the regional greenhouse gas initiative would introduce Ohio’s electricity companies to a new market of carbon allowance trading with twelve other states, including neighboring Pennsylvania. This would allow power companies to efficiently reduce carbon emissions through trading of allowances and incentivize creation of more clean jobs.
Enacting a carbon tax would have a similar impact, incentivizing the creation of clean jobs by discouraging the use of fossil fuels in the electricity and transportation sectors.
In 2021 Scioto Analysis found each of these strategies would abate carbon and have large economic benefits. Less climate change, a stronger economy, and more jobs: what’s not to like?
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