Indiana clean energy employment growing, new report says

The number of Hoosiers employed in clean energy continues to go up as the workforce recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.

Even more clean energy jobs are expected to go online as Indiana continues its transition to cleaner energy sources and away from coal.

The eighth annual Clean Jobs America 2023 report published by San Francisco-based business group Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2, shows that every state, including Indiana, added clean energy jobs in 2022. A separate, Midwest-specific clean energy jobs report is additionally expected to publish later this week.

The number of clean energy jobs in Indiana grew about 3.7% from 85,298 in 2021 to more than 88,400 in 2022. Fossil fuel-related work, meanwhile, accounted for just 14,837 jobs.

“Clean energy is indispensable to economic growth today. And the best news is every community is benefitting,” said Michael Timberlake, E2 communications director. “Workers exist in literally every corner of the U.S. across hundreds of different occupations building everything from the next generation of batteries and photovoltaic panels to retrofitting old office buildings and manufacturing the appliances in your home.”

The growth sets the stage before the sector sees a boost from historic federal investment in climate and clean energy. Major new clean energy projects announced by companies in the first year since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law in August 2022 totaled 210 across 38 states.

Seven of those projects are in Indiana, including the new Bila Solar plant and headquarters in Indianapolis, the Entek lithium battery separator plant in Terre Haute and an expansion of General Motors’ Marion operations to support electric vehicle production. In total, the projects are expected to create more than 1,400 new jobs and amount to more than $2.4 billion in investment.

The numbers in the latest E2 report do not reflect the new jobs to be created by those projects.

Where Hoosiers are working

Every clean energy sector in Indiana added jobs in 2022 according to Clean Jobs America.

The Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson metropolitan areas led all metros for the most clean energy jobs, with more than 28,000 jobs.

Marion, Elkhart, Allen, Lake, Hamilton and St. Joseph led all counties for the most clean energy jobs with at least 3,000 jobs in each. Bartholomew, Clark, Decatur, Gibson, Hendricks, Howard, Johnson, Monroe, Noble, Porter, Shelby, Tippecanoe and Vanderburgh counties followed with at least 1,000 clean-energy jobs.

Fountain County had the highest density in clean energy employment, as well as the fastest growth rates. The county is home to the 4,500-acre Dolphin Solar farm, which is still under development.

Energy efficiency remained the single-biggest employer across Indiana’s energy sector, employing nearly 51,000 Hoosiers in 2022, according to the latest report. That’s an increase from 2021, when the sector reportedly employed 49,959 Hoosier workers.

Hoosiers working in energy efficiency make, sell and install efficient products—like Energy Star appliances—build well-insulated homes and buildings, and provide energy-saving services, like weatherization.

Clean vehicle makers continued to lead all energy sectors in growth, adding nearly 2,000 jobs in 2022 for a total of more than 22,000 employed Hoosiers.

Additionally, 40,000 construction jobs were supported by clean energy in 2022, which would account for about one in every four construction workers statewide.

Jobs grew across all subsectors of renewable energy, too, led by wind energy and solar. In all, nearly 300 jobs were added in 2022 and more than 11,700 Hoosiers now work in renewable energy sectors—a 2.5% increase since 2021.

The storage and grid modernization sector added about 150 jobs in 2022, up 5.1%. Jobs making power grids more resilient and able to handle more renewable energy led the sector, followed by battery and energy storage.

The smallest clean energy sector, biofuels, added 19 jobs in 2022, for a total of close to 800. Since 2021, the sector has increased employment by 2.4%.

Indiana’s clean energy transition

Nationwide, the states with the most clean energy jobs remained unchanged from 2021, led by California and Texas with over 500,000 and 250,000 jobs respectively, followed by New York, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, and North Carolina all with at least 100,000.

Clean energy now accounts for 40% of all energy jobs in the U.S., according to the report. In Indiana, about 31% of all energy jobs are in the clean energy sector.

Indiana ranked 12th in the country for the number of clean energy jobs, overall. Neighboring Midwestern states ranked even higher; Michigan in 5th, Illinois in 6th and Ohio in 8th.

Indiana currently produces more than half of its electricity from coal, but the state is now in the midst of an industry transition to cleaner energy sources, like renewables.

Figuring out the best ways to go about that shift has sparked debate at the Statehouse, however. In the most recent legislative session, for example, lawmakers sparred over a contentious bill that critics say would stifle competitive markets and add unnecessary costs to energy infrastructure projects. The legislation was ultimately signed into law.

Multiple, yearslong initiatives in Indiana also seek to increase the number of electric and hybrid vehicles on Hoosier roads and reduce overall carbon emissions.

During the 2023 session, state lawmakers commissioned a new task force that will analyze buying trends and impacts of increased electric vehicle adoption. The task force will also likely consider new strategies for taxing alternative fuels.

Vehicles that use alternative fuels pay less—or none at all—in gas taxes, which fund transportation infrastructure improvements. Instead, owners pay higher registration fees, but the price is based on assumptions of how many miles those vehicles will drive and how efficiently they’ll do it.

Some lawmakers and state officials say that model is cause for concern, though, maintaining that—as the number of electric and hybrid vehicles increases—more needs to be done to ensure that roadways can be properly funded and maintained.

In a forward look ahead, and in conjunction with National Clean Energy Week, Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a proclamation this month recognizing Sept. 25-29 as Clean Energy Week in Indiana.

In the proclamation, Holcomb acknowledged that clean energy is part of the country’s future and has been a key driver of economic growth in Indiana in recent years.

“Across Indiana, clean and readily abundant forms of energy are powering more homes and businesses across Indiana than ever before,” Holcomb wrote in his proclamation. “We must harness the power of Indiana entrepreneurs and small businesses and ensure government collaboration to assert American energy leadership and dominance in the global marketplace and assure low-cost reliable energy here at home.”

By Casey Smith – The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.