Thanks in part to the input of American Wind Energy Association members, a recently published report on Minnesota puts some numbers to the tremendous economic impact that wind power can have on a state—particularly one that implements effective policy.
The report covers clean energy as a whole but breaks down the data by technology as well. According to “Minnesota Clean Energy Economy Profile,” released last month, wind power added more jobs since 2000 than all other technologies studied, with wind jobs in the state up a staggering 288 percent since 2000. As of the first quarter of this year, about 1,700 Minnesotans worked in the wind industry.
These jobs are also often well-paying jobs. Minnesota workers in the wind industry earned an average annual income of $61,000 – more than the average annual income for all occupations in Minnesota of just over $47,000. Overall, Minnesota workers in the clean energy economy brought home over $1 billion in wages in 2013.
With 15.7 percent of electricity generated coming from wind, the state ranks fifth in the wind-penetration category. Not bad, particularly when considering Minnesota is number 12 for wind resource.
The federal Production Tax Credit helps boost wind jobs in Minnesota and across the country. Congress must extend it this year in order for states like Minnesota to keep reaping wind’s economic benefits and to avoid actual job losses.
Minnesota’s state policy has helped the state come out ahead in the clean energy race, as the report notes. In the mid-1990s, Minnesota implemented a “renewable energy production incentive payment”, and later set a renewable energy “objective” in 2001.
As the technology evolved and it became clear renewables were ready and reliable, Minnesota policy got bolder. In 2005, the state put in place the Community-Based Energy Development Tariff (commonly known as C-BED), which required 20-year power purchase agreements between utilities and community-owned renewable energy projects. To this day, wind power is among the leading energy sources that uses the community wind model, and so the policy benefited wind in particular. Finally, in 2007 came one of the nation’s strongest renewable portfolio standards (RPS), requiring utilities derive 25 percent of their power from renewables by 2015 (and 30 percent for local utility Xcel Energy).
Back when the RPS was first established, 2015 may have seemed like a long time away, but we’re almost there now. So how’s the state doing on the target? All utilities are on track to meet the 2015 standard, said Ken Brown, Clean Energy Commercialization Program Manager at the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Importantly, Brown called the report “the state’s most comprehensive effort to date to quantify the number of businesses, employees and dollar amounts of wages and investments due to the clean energy economy.”
Brown and others involved in the report’s development have expressed much gratitude to members of AWEA for the role they played in supplying data for the findings. Providing an assist, AWEA reached out to its Minnesota members and asked them to complete surveys concerning employment, wage, and other data. The information was vital in helping to “true up” the data, as Brown put it.
“The level of confidence in results of any analysis is largely determined by the quality of data used to do it,” he said. “AWEA partnered with the state and notified its Minnesota members of the importance that company-specific data had for the analysis, and provided a link to the state’s on-line survey. AWEA’s outreach gave businesses engaged in the wind industry the opportunity to contribute to the data being used to evaluate it.”
Brown believes the report initiative was so successful that the model can be shared with other states. Meanwhile, after producing such a successful first iteration, Minnesota is already planning to update the report next year. It will look to AWEA and its members to provide the same vital information they shared before.