National economic and workforce applied research firm BW Research today released a first-of-its-kind study in Illinois that found that the transition to clean energy could create a net increase of more than 150,000 jobs for the state by 2050. The study was commissioned by ComEd to better understand the economic and workforce development challenges and opportunities communities will face in the transition to clean energy; the results is a statewide and regional job analyses.
“As evidenced by this foundational study, Illinois stands to gain tens of thousands of good-paying jobs from the transition to a clean energy future – and we must ensure that all communities benefit from this economic opportunity,” said ComEd CEO Gil Quiniones. “This research will help ensure that, working with community partners, we can build a diverse pipeline of talent ready to power the state’s journey to a cleaner, brighter future.”
The study examines the impacts to regional and statewide employment from two scenarios on the transition to a net zero energy future. It captures initial and secondary employment outputs across four sectors of the economy – electricity, fuels, transportation and buildings – and assesses opportunities for growth and areas of displacement across these four sectors to determine employment outcomes.
To complement BW Research’s analysis, ComEd conducted in-depth interviews with more than a dozen local business and community groups, ranging from workforce development organizations and educational institutions to labor unions. The study incorporates insights from these interviews on the impacts of the economy and pandemic recovery on the local workforce, the effect of decarbonization on the region’s future workforce, and the need for public-private partnership to prepare for workforce needs in coming decades.
“This study shows us that we’re at a unique moment in the energy space that offers a tremendous opportunity to create new jobs and bring economic prosperity to communities across Illinois,” said Don Finn, Business Manager and Financial Secretary for IBEW Local 134. “We’re hopeful that we can attract new jobseekers and build a diverse talent pipeline to support Illinois for generations to come.”
The first scenario assumes a business-as-usual approach that examines the impact of decarbonization driven by laws such as Illinois’ Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) and the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) on employment across the state. It assumes no additional efforts to accelerate the electrification of transportation, buildings or industry. Under this scenario, Illinois would see a net increase of 15,000 jobs between 2021 to 2030 and an increase of 38,000 jobs between 2021 to 2050.
The second scenario includes the job projections under the business-as-usual approach but also factors in additional actions beyond CEJA and the IRA to achieve economywide decarbonization by 2050, with high levels of electrification and a significant role for hydrogen and gas backup for heating. This scenario finds a net increase of 41,000 jobs in Illinois between 2021 and 2030 and a net increase of 151,000 jobs between 2021 to 2050.
These scenarios are the same as two of the scenarios identified in a recent independent study by national sustainability firm Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. (E3) that outlines pathways for Illinois to achieve full, economy-wide decarbonization by 2050, consistent with the state’s pledge as part of the U.S. Climate Alliance to pursue the Paris Agreement.
“Our clean energy future is going to create more and better paying jobs, and education and job training will be critical in our work to ensure all communities benefit from this economic opportunity,” said Juan Salgado, Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago. “This study will help us better expand existing educational programs and build new ones that will ensure the future workforce has the training and stackable skills necessary to thrive in this sector.”
The study also revealed that, under both scenarios, job quality would improve, with high paying and mid-wage jobs expected to increase by roughly seven percent under the business-as-usual scenario to 17 percent under a moderate electrification scenario.
“We are working to ensure underserved communities across Chicago have access to good-paying jobs and the necessary training to qualify for these jobs,” said Andrew Wells, Vice President of Workforce Development for the Chicago Urban League. “Working with ComEd and others, we are committed to maximizing the opportunities presented by the clean energy future to benefit every person, particularly communities who have historically lacked access to these opportunities.”
ComEd will use the study to inform its existing job training programs and internal hiring and training plans to support projected workforce needs, as well as to inform partnerships with state and local organizations to expand and develop job training programs to support the transition to clean energy. The company currently offers or supports a range of in-depth job training and apprenticeship programs, including the CONSTRUCT Infrastructure Academy, which, over the past decade, has helped more than 700 participants from diverse backgrounds prepare for careers in the skilled trades.
Other training opportunities include the Chicago Builds program at Dunbar High School through a partnership with Chicago Public Schools and the ComEd-sponsored Overhead Electrical Line Worker Training at Dawson Technical Institute.
The full study by BW Research can be accessed at https://bwresearch.com/docs/BW_ComED-Jobs&EquitableEnergyTransitionStudyReport2022.pdf.