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Tina Casey headshot

Mike Pence Couldn't Kill Indiana's Green Job Boom

By Tina Casey

The Election Day dust is finally beginning to settle out, and one thing is crystal clear: Green jobs are here to stay. A good example is the state of Indiana. While governor of the state, Vice-President elect Mike Pence did not exactly promote clean energy, to say the least. But according to an organization called Indiana Advanced Energy Economy, there is much more to the state's green jobs picture than meets the eye.

A new report from the group paints a rosy picture for the here and now. But it's important to remember that stakeholders in the green jobs field are also corporate responsibility leaders. This means Indiana's anti-gay, "right to discriminate" legislation -- which passed last year with the support of Gov. Pence -- could complicate future progress in the state.

The business case for clean power

Indiana AEE is a new state chapter of the national group Advanced Energy Economy. The national group hasn't crossed the TriplePundit radar yet, but its member list is packed with A-listers in the clean-energy field and related sectors including GE, First Solar, Apple, Johnson Controls, Honda, Itron, and of course, SolarCity and Tesla.

To be clear, the organization seems more committed to pushing coal out as rapidly as possible, rather than advocating for 100 percent renewable energy, at least in the near future. That translates into the inclusion of natural gas in its advocacy portfolio.

The natural gas angle is problematic, and the phrase "advanced energy" blurs the line between new technology and clean energy. However, it is an arguably realistic position in the context of eliminating coal as quickly as possible. AEE offers public polling in support:

"... Seventy-four percent of Americans believe that modernizing U.S. electric power systems to use electric power more efficiently and reduce the need for old power plants is a good idea, according to the survey. And 58 percent of respondents said that modernizing the electric power system by scaling back the use of old power plants and adding more low-emission natural gas and zero-emission wind, solar, and hydropower is a good idea even if it costs more money."

Gas or no gas, AEE has the potential to be an important bi-partisan advocate for the low-carbon economy of the future. Its roster includes senior fellow Greg Ballard, former Republican mayor of Indianapolis. Graham Richard, a former Democratic mayor of Wayne, is its CEO.

The primary goal of AEE is grid modernization. And it plans to call upon its network of 1,000 businesses spanning 27 states -- red, blue and purple -- to get that message through to the incoming Trump administration.

Green jobs are on the rise in Indiana

That brings us to Indiana AEE. The organization debuted this week with the release of a new report detailing the importance of green jobs.

According to Indiana AEE's figures, the state has racked up almost 48,000 jobs in the advanced energy field. That includes something Indiana AEE calls "advanced natural gas," but those employment figures are low on the list:

"Most advanced energy jobs are in energy efficiency, followed by transportation, solar, wind, biomass, and advanced natural gas," Indiana AEE found.

Under this definition, fully 1 in every 50 Indiana workers is employed in the state's advanced energy economy, according to the group.
"That’s more Indiana jobs than are in machinery manufacturing (43,000), nearly two times the 25,000 jobs in colleges and universities, and approaching the 60,000 in auto parts manufacturing."

Plenty more are on the way. Even without the kind of favorable policies that create green jobs in other states, Indiana employers expect to add another 900 new jobs before the end of the year.

As for influencing state policy, notable Indiana employers that hooked up with Indiana AEE include Landis+Gyr, Pattern Energy, CLEAResult, Vestas, Salesforce and Ameresco.

AEE Indiana's membership also includes companies with an interest in advanced energy development, including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Walmart.

Wind energy is also growing

A quick look at Indiana's wind energy sector provides a glimpse of how far the state has come, and it hints at strong growth prospects for green jobs in the future.

Here is a snippet from the American Wind Energy Association:

"Indiana has potential to become a national leader in the wind energy industry. Indiana has been successful in attracting investment for wind energy manufacturing, with at least 16 manufacturing facilities in the state creating high quality jobs and producing components for the wind industry."

AWEA notes that Indiana's wind resources attracted significant interest from developers. At 303 individual turbines, the state's Meadow Lake Wind Farm is the 11th largest wind farm in the nation.

What now, Mike Pence?

The green jobs picture in Indiana could be a lot rosier, if not for the monkey wrenches Vice President-elect Pence threw into the state's advanced energy sector while governor.

Despite the growing importance of renewable energy as an economic driver in his home state, Pence remained a staunch advocate for the state's coal mining industry, and he toes President-elect Donald Trump's climate-denying line.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, during his stint in office, Pence also earned a reputation for shifting jobs out of Indiana and into Mexico and China.

Pence's record on social issues is also not very encouraging. His disturbingly intimate interest in the menstrual cycle touched off an uproar earlier this year, and he is notorious for supporting a ban on gay marriage in the state's Constitution.

That move failed, but Indiana's right-to-discriminate law is still in effect. And a survey earlier this year indicates it's impacting the state's economy.

One company responding to the new law is AEE member Salesforce. Last year, Saleforce pledged to reduce its investments in Indiana in protest of the law. That position ultimately inspired a "fix" for the new law, but it is still essentially in effect.

Salesforce ultimately went through with its expansion plans. Last winter it announced a new regional headquarters in Indianapolis, which is expected to add 800 new jobs to the state over five years.

In a blog post announcing the expansion, the company hinted that it would continue to advocate for equal rights in Indiana:

"What truly makes Salesforce a great place to work are the people.  Salesforce Tower Indianapolis will bring our #SalesforceOhana culture to life in an inspirational space where everyone can come together to collaborate, innovate, and do the best work of our lives.

"As one of Fortune’s Best Places to Work for the past nine years, we are excited to tap into Indiana’s diverse talent pool."

Stay tuned.

Photo (screenshot, cropped): via American Wind Energy Association.







Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey