Missouri leads Midwest in clean-energy job growth; expansion set to continue
By Byron DeLear and Tim Murray
One brilliant economic success story for Missouri is the fact that we are currently enjoying the highest clean-energy job growth in the Midwest. According to a recent report based on U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, 52,000 Missourians work in clean-energy with 13,000 workers added in the past year alone. The growth rate of 8.3% is the highest among all 12 states in the region. Good news is, due to the launch of new clean-energy programs and the expansion of existing ones in our state, job opportunities in this sector will continue to increase at an accelerated pace.
“Bottom line is folks are saving money on their energy bills and this is the real driver of growth,” said Tom Appelbaum of Energy Equity Funding, LLC. Energy Equity Funding administers several clean-energy programs in the Midwest including “Set the PACE St. Louis” which provides 100% up-front financing for energy improvements for property owners. “The financing under the program is paid back as a voluntary special assessment and is available at longer terms than traditional loans,” added Appelbaum. “For participating property owners, this creates a net-positive cash-flow due to lower utility costs and other savings.”
Energy-efficiency is the largest portion of Missouri’s clean-energy workforce at nearly three-quarters of all jobs in the state. 45% of the workforce is located in the metropolitan St. Louis region.
One of the most successful projects in the nation for 2015 was the $2.4mm comprehensive energy-retrofit on the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Downtown Clubhouse. The iconic city landmark was the first building to have air conditioning west of Mississippi, and post-upgrade, will save more than $200,000 its first year. By year twenty, the MAC’s new facilities will be generating $362,000 a year in savings.
“This piece makes great sense for us,” stated MAC General Manager Wally Smith. “These systems will be working for 20 or 30 years down the road and set the club up for the future—and without any out-of-pocket costs for us? It’s really a no-brainer.”
On the MAC project, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) teamed-up with general contractor Trane and worked 800 man hours supplied by four electrical contractors: Kaemmerlen Electric, Aschinger Electric, Electric Mechanics, and Temperature Control Solutions.
“We absolutely recognize the environmental, economic, and social value of clean-energy and are excited to work on touchstone projects like the MAC,” said Doug Martin of the National Electrical Contractors Association. “Our affiliated contractors provided the electrical portion for the energy efficient upgrades to the Heating and Air Conditioning System along with the lighting retrofit. Savings are generated in a number of ways including utilizing programmable set points on thermostats, providing ‘demand’ lighting, and load shedding.
Clean-energy property retrofits create good-paying, American jobs that can’t be outsourced. Occupations such as pipefitters, electricians, insulators, and laborers all play a role in completing these projects. Additionally, 90% of the products associated with energy-efficiency, such as insulation, caulking, and weather stripping, are made in the U.S.A.
The IBEW, the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, and the National Electrical Contractors Association have developed some of the most advanced green-jobs training programs and facilities in the United States, and have invested more than $140 million in renewable energy training. Since 1941, IBEW training centers have been educating electricians on all modern electrical needs. They possess state-of-the-art green training equipment, including solar arrays, wind turbines, and programmable logic controllers.
The St. Louis Building and Construction Trades, of which the IBEW is a member, has recently signed a St. Louis Clean-Energy Workforce Agreement for the City and County which is unique in the United States.
“We will coordinate our exclusive BUD (Building Union Diversity) program with the City and County’s PACE programs to include specific educational materials and training associated with developing careers in clean-energy,” said Jeff Aboussie, Secretary for the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades. “The BUD program is only one way in which Set the PACE St. Louis and the County’s new PACE program will be focusing on community inclusion—providing opportunities for minorities and women as well as existing journeymen to become apprentices with participating unions to learn the skills allowing them to employable for the rest of their lives.”
Community workforce agreements are a fundamental part of revitalization and renewal efforts for our region—and when coupled with the transformative movement occurring in clean-energy—revenue neutral initiatives like PACE-financing can actually begin to address larger issues such as climate pollution while also advancing economic interests. In the upcoming national contest for the Presidency, climate change will undoubtedly play a critical role for voters as the likely Democratic and Republican nominees couldn’t offer a more stark contrast. America, as the prime industrial mover, has a moral responsibility to lead on the shift toward clean-energy; and, in an ironic twist, Missouri, in terms of growth, is actually at the head of the pack.
Byron DeLear is a candidate for Missouri State Representative and program administrator for clean-energy programs, including PACE programs in Missouri and Arkansas.
Tim Murray is a Business Representative for the IBEW in the St. Louis jurisdiction and an officer on the IBEW Local 1 Executive Board.