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Advanced transportation driving Michigan clean energy job growth, report finds

BY Wednesday, October 12, 2022 02:39pm

The advanced transportation sector is driving Michigan’s clean energy job growth that has experienced steady increases after a pandemic-related downturn. 

A recent analysis of federal employment data by national business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and Chicago-based nonprofit Evergreen Climate Innovations found that Michigan’s advanced transportation sector grew by 21 percent in 2021. The sector added 5,210 jobs for a current 29,484-person workforce, according to the report released today. That accounted for most of the roughly 6,300 clean energy jobs added in Michigan last year.

The advanced transportation sector is buoyed by the ongoing transition to hybrid and electric vehicles, according to the report findings.

Detroit-based Dunamis Charge Inc. is among the companies contributing to the sector’s growth. The manufacturer of Level 2 electric vehicle chargers anticipates starting production next month on the city’s east side. The company expects to employ 150 to 175 people by 2025.

“We’re very excited about the green collar workforce we’re able to develop right here in the city to service and provide good-paying jobs for communities more disproportionately impacted by greenhouse gas emissions,” Dunamis founder and CEO Natalie King said during a webinar today presenting the report’s findings. “We wanted to tap into a workforce we knew was skilled and experienced in creating the best in the automotive industry.”

The advanced transportation job growth represents a portion of Michigan’s auto industry, which added more than 37,000 jobs last year over 2020, according to federal data. The advanced transportation sector in the report includes hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles, as well as natural gas and hydrogen-powered vehicles. 

The jobs data, compiled from the federal 2021 U.S. Energy Employment Report, come on the heels of announcements for multiple large-scale battery manufacturing projects across Michigan. King is optimistic that the battery plants will spur ancillary benefits, including in the electric vehicle charging space.

“There are so many ancillary opportunities and streamlining of businesses that are being created right now by electrification and mobility, and the huge investments that the automotive industry is making in electrifying their fleets. That will impact so many other segments of business, whether it’s construction, electrical contracting, battery manufacturing and recycling, and EV charging stations,” King said. “Investments in all of these areas will promulgate in really expanding opportunities for our company as an EV charging manufacturer.”

The transportation-related 21-percent growth rate was stronger than the 6-percent growth for Michigan’s overall clean energy jobs, which now total 119,853 as of last year, according to the report.

Overall, Michigan ranks second among 12 Midwest states in clean energy employment, slightly following Illinois, which the report found has 120,775 clean energy jobs.

The energy efficiency sector continues to be the largest clean energy job provider, employing roughly 74,620 people in Michigan last year. 

Despite Midwest clean energy jobs numbers remaining below pre-pandemic levels, clean energy advocates are optimistic about further industry growth under the federal Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the CHIPS Act.

“The clean energy industry is poised for growth like we’ve never seen before,” said Micaela Preskill, Midwest advocate for E2. She noted the three recent federal laws include long-term tax incentives for renewable energy projects and provisions to support U.S. manufacturing in these sectors.

“There’s never been more stability and certainty in the (clean energy) market. The industry is destined to grow,” Preskill added. “Clean energy is a big part of the (Midwest’s) economy and we finally have federal policies in place that will surely lead to a clean energy boom in the coming years.”

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