Clean Energy Could Create Thousands of Montana Jobs

by Kyla Maki

Bozeman Solar Home by Todd HoitsmaHow many jobs and careers could Montana create if we were to increase renewable energy generation and energy efficiency? – That is the question that a new report by Synapse Energy Economics recently analyzed. MEIC and Sierra Club commissioned Synapse to produce the Montana clean energy jobs report.

The report entitled, Employment Effects of Clean Energy Investments in Montana evaluates job creation potential in energy efficiency, wind energy, rooftop solar, and utility scale solar in Montana over the next 20 years.

Synapse determined the potential for jobs to be created in each of the clean energy sectors. The report considers jobs in both the construction and operation/maintenance (O&M) phases of development (See table 1 below).

meic.org wp-content uploads 2014 06 Synapse-Montana-Jobs-Final-6-5-145.pdf

4,000 new jobs

We used job factors from the report and applied them to realistic, industry projections for Montana’s potential in wind, solar and energy efficiency in the next 20 years. The result? Montana could create over 4,000 new jobs from clean energy by 2030 (See table 2 below).

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That is an incredible opportunity to reduce carbon emissions, protect public health and boost our economy at the same time.

Vast Potential

Montana has tremendous potential for developing clean energy resources such as wind, solar and energy efficiency. In fact, Montana has the second greatest wind energy potential in the nation. We also have an above average solar resource.

There is also significant “low hanging fruit” in untapped energy efficiency. Montana ranks 29th nationally in achieved energy efficiency; there is clearly a lot of room for energy efficiency growth.

Limitless energy, sustainable jobs

Unlike finite fossil fuels, limitless wind and solar energy create sustainable jobs. Clean energy jobs can also be dispersed across the state. Hundreds of thousands of rooftops across the state could produce solar energy. Each one of these rooftops also offers a tremendous opportunity for job creation.

Energy efficiency job opportunities are also vast. Every home and business that needs energy efficient windows, lighting, insulation, appliances, etc. provides sustainable job and career opportunities in every Montana community.

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Photo courtesy of Solar Montana.

Demand for Montana’s clean energy

Montana already exports over half of the electricity generated to states with higher demand for electricity—primarily Washington, Oregon and California. Most of the power we export right now comes from the 2,094 megawatt Colstrip coal plant.

Demand for Montana’s dirty coal-fired power is decreasing as Washington and Oregon consumers, regulators, and elected officials push their utilities to replace their “coal by wire” from Colstrip with cleaner power. 

What does that mean for Montana? It means that in order to stay in the electricity export business, Montana needs to begin replacing Colstrip power with wind and solar energy. Exporting Montana’s tremendous renewable resources will reap huge economic benefits and create thousands of jobs across the state.

Here’s the bottom line: clean energy is good for the climate and good for Montana’s economic bottom line.