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Clean Energy

Chicago's Clean Energy Future Heading link

solar workers

The U.S. economy is in the process of transitioning from conventional energy sources to renewable energy production and usage. Supported by shifting market forces and partially assisted by public policy, significant portions of the American economy are shifting away from carbon-intensive, fossil fuel driven activities toward cleaner, more efficient, and higher-output ones, especially through greater energy efficiency and more use of renewable energy sources. As a result, there are challenges and opportunities for policy makers and training institutions that aim to prepare the future clean energy workforce.

Chicago Region’s Clean Energy Economy, Studying Changes in Employment Since 2011 examines major findings related to the growth of the Clean Energy economy, occupational distribution and concentration, and inclusion of women and people of color. Results are presented for the nation, the 14-county Chicago Region, and Cook County.

Exploring Clean Energy Economy Changes by Industry: An Interactive Bubble Chart Heading link

To accompany the Chicago’ Region’s Clean Energy Economy, Studying Changes in Employment Since 2011 , we created an  interactive bubble chart that allows users to further explore the Chicago Metropolitan Area’s (MSA’s) Green Economy industries.

On a high level, the chart can be used to see all 82 industries that make up the Chicago MSA’s Green Economy. The chart breaks down the Green Economy into its three subcategories and allows the user to explore each subcategory and individual industry. The chart includes information on:

  • Number of jobs (size of bubble)
  • Percent change in number of jobs (x-axis)
  • Location quotient (y-axis).

The rest of this post goes into depth on an industry in each quadrant and also highlights some interesting outliers.

Just Transition Blogs Heading link

Clean Energy Job Pathways Heading link

These widgets help explain which skills are needed for clean energy jobs. You can search by job and see which skills are typically required, or search by a skill you have, and see which job opportunities are applicable for you.


Making a Case for Solar Manufacturing in Chicago Heading link

Chicago skyline solar panels

Renewable energy is on the rise and the time is ripe for the expansion of its production in the Chicago region. The regional green economy grew faster than the U.S. economy as a whole between 2011 and 2018, increasing by 14.4 percent compared to 9.9 percent growth for total regional jobs1. However, the number of green establishments in the region as well as in Cook County is not growing as fast as the regional economy average 1.

Due to a systematic decline in heavy manufacturing in the Chicago region, specifically in the southern region of the city and the Calumet area, there is an underutilized workforce that could be mobilized to transition existing manufacturing infrastructure into solar production facilities. With the growing demand for solar and dependence on international imports, manufacturing solar in Chicago could boost renewable energy locally, potentially lower the cost of panels, and create hundreds of clean jobs.

At the regional level, green economy jobs pay an average of 9% more than other jobs combined 1. Additionally, the expansion of the clean energy sector can also contribute to correcting the long-standing environmental damages in many of the communities that also have high unemployment, producing benefits for both individuals and communities.

This research seeks to understand the market conditions necessary to enable this expansion by exploring the landscape in the city, region, and state that may warrant this type of investment. We have found so far that it would appear to be feasible with the right investments toward the startup of manufacturing plants and job training.