National business group Advanced Energy Economy
(AEE) released a report indicating the economic impact of the advanced energy industry on the Hoosier state. According to the report, advanced energy jobs account for 48,000 jobs in Indiana. That figure is second only to the auto industry which boasts 60, 000 jobs around the state. That’s 5,000 more jobs than machine manufacturing and almost twice as many as the number employed by colleges and universities.
So, what are we talking about when we say “advanced energy?”
Advanced energy is everything associated with energy supply and demand in every way you can think of. In terms of supply it includes the generation, delivery and management of electricity as well as fuel delivery and production. When you think of demand, think of transportation, energy efficiency (how it is used effectively) and industry (the manufacturing of machinery and process equipment).
And out of the 48,000 advanced energy jobs in Indiana, 77 percent of them are in the area of energy efficiency — things like building design, heating and lighting, appliances and electronics and enabling IT/ demand response. Only 9 percent of the advanced energy jobs are in electricity generation.
While the industry expects to add over 900 more jobs in Indiana, there are challenges to its expansion. Ninety percent of firms in the industry expressed difficulties in hiring a competent workforce. That means there are immediate and long-term needs in the state in this rapidly growing field, especially as more and more corporations express the desire for energy efficient options.
As an association of businesses, AEE seeks to transform public policy to enable the rapid growth of advanced energy to meet the needs of its member businesses. In Indiana, that means educating the public as well as government officials on the importance of advanced energy in terms of economic impact and facilitating conversations on the opportunities that exist.
And the initiative is being led by Hoosiers both nationally and locally. Former Fort Wayne mayor Graham Richard serves as the CEO of AEE. Former Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard serves as a senior fellow for the Indiana chapter. Both men see the value and opportunity advanced energy already has in Indiana and are working to eliminate the obstacles that prevent growth.
“I keep saying we are in the middle of an energy transformation, people just don’t realize it yet,” says Ballard. “Our mission here is to represent the companies that are looking for this kind of energy.”
Indiana could be doing itself a disservice if the obstacles preventing energy growth are not addressed. Energy efficiency and reliability are bigger concerns companies are looking for when selecting a location to build and expand that people realize. Indiana was among the top 10 states for power outages in 2015 — thanks in part to an aging system reliant on coal-fired power plants. That’s not an encouraging statistic for companies looking for more options and a reliable delivery system. However Ballard says that means there is opportunity here for modernizing the infrastructure and improving the reliability, cost and diversity of electric power options in the state.
“There are some changing of minds in the public [that needs to happen], but also there will have to be policy objectives to make sure the legislature, the rules, the policies are allowing this new technology to take hold,” says Ballard. “Because if you break down barriers then the jobs will flow. What we are trying to do is make sure the jobs are there and that the companies get the type of energy that they want and that we can have more freedom frankly in the energy markets.”
The complete jobs report is available here
Apparently Indiana is a lot more savvy when it comes to advanced energy than people realize.