A new report from the Governor’s Energy Office and Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future offers a detailed analysis of the momentum within Maine’s clean energy economy, and how the sector is emerging as a source of economic growth and workforce opportunities to help the state’s recovery from the economic disruption of COVID-19.
Strengthening Maine’s Clean Energy Economy unveils detailed strategies for expanding Maine’s clean economy workforce, supporting innovation, and training opportunities in renewable power generation and energy efficiency.
Renewable energy fields, like wind and solar, are some of the fastest growing sectors in the nation. The report found that Maine’s recent policy changes and investments in clean energy and energy efficiency have the state poised to see increased workforce demands for these growing industries, which will create new career opportunities and bolster employment in existing fields. Further, Maine’s innovation centers around forest products and floating offshore wind could provide additional opportunities as new markets emerge.
“The global threat of climate change looms large over the future of our state, eclipsed only by our determination to combat it and to create good paying jobs to boot,” said Governor Mills. “Over the past two years, through bold action and bipartisan policymaking, we have seen a clean energy economy begin to blossom in Maine. We have proven Maine is a leader forging the path to a clean energy future built by good paying, green collar jobs in innovative industries. Now more than ever, we can’t lose sight of that future and the steps it will take to get there.”
Nationally, clean energy careers have eclipsed employment in fossil-fuel energy sectors. Clean energy jobs offer meaningful pathways for workers without advanced degrees. Nationally, these jobs offer median hourly wages 25 percent higher than that in most areas, as well as competitive retirement and health insurance benefits.
The promise of the clean energy economy has been proven out across New England, which boasts three of the top-five states in the nation for clean energy workers per capita in Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island. According to a 2019 national survey, Maine had approximately 14,000 workers in clean energy fields with 8,900 working in energy efficiency alone. While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted this field, Maine saw growth in all energy fields between 2018 and 2019.
“Maine is making unprecedented investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, we must ensure we have the necessary skilled workforce to meet the growing demand,” said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “This opportunity before Maine is significant, and this report lays out strategies we believe will be most effective to grow this dynamic economic sector.”
The most recent state workforce projections indicate a slight decline in Maine employment over the coming decade, as a high number of workers reach retirement age. The report highlights the potential of the clean energy sector to forestall this trend over the next 10 years.
A survey of more than 100 energy businesses and organizations compiled for the report found that workforce scarcity is a primary concern for the future, with the success of workforce development, recruitment and retention efforts seen as directly affecting to the sector’s overall economic impact. Workforce development is highlighted as the clear opportunity and challenge for Maine and the report calls for enhancing career and technical opportunities for Maine high school and college students, as well as marketing and recruitment for clean energy careers.
Acting now is also viewed as critical, the report urges, based on the clear potential for the clean energy economy to spur Maine’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and to enhance Maine’s competitive advantage against other states seeking to attract renewable energy investments.
Growing Maine’s clean energy industry is a signature focus of the Mills Administration for catalyzing economic growth and curbing greenhouse gas emissions to slow the harmful effects of climate change. Since last year, Maine has set among the boldest clean energy goals in the nation, including a requirement that 80 percent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2030, and a goal of 100 percent by 2050 – if not sooner.
Strengthening Maine’s Clean Energy Economy was created for the Maine Climate Council, which will incorporate its recommended strategies as part of its four-year Climate Action Plan to be released on December 1.
Hannah Pingree, Director of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future and co-chair of the Maine Climate Council, said the report helps bring the economic impact of fighting climate change into perspective for the Council as it prepares to deliver its own plan for action.
“The impacts of climate change on Maine are already being felt, and the threat to our state is severe unless bold steps are taken,” said Pingree. “These bold actions also come with the opportunity to grow good paying jobs in clean energy and innovative natural resources industries, which is a win-win opportunity for Maine to both reduce greenhouse emissions and grow our economy.”
The report, “Strengthening Maine’s Clean Energy Economy,” is available online here.