Minnesota’s clean energy economy is driving market development, jobs, wages, and innovation

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In quantifying activities that represent direct engagement in the clean energy economy, the report summarizes Minnesota policies stimulating clean energy market development, a range of employment statistics across the areas of energy efficiency, bioenergy, wind, solar, and smart grid, and compelling data on Minnesota’s gains in innovation—patents, early stage investment, and project finance—over the last decade. Some key positive findings include the following:


  • Energy efficiency: Combined electric and gas savings through the Conservation Improvement Program have seen a 70 percent increase since 2007.
  • Bioenergy electricity generation: Increased by 42 percent since 2007.
  • Wind: Reached fifth in the nation in terms of share of electricity produced.
  • Solar: More than 14 megawatts of solar energy capacity were installed, 86 percent of which was installed between 2010 and 2013.


  • Jobs: Employment in clean energy sectors reached 15,300 in 2014, double the number of similar jobs in 2000, and at 78 percent, outpaced Minnesota’s overall job growth rate of 11 percent since 2000.
  • Growth across industries: The wind industry saw a 288-percent increase in jobs, and a 553-percent increase in businesses since 2000. Solar, bioenergy, and smart grid jobs have increased more than 100 percent. Energy efficiency jobs in Minnesota—making up more than 60 percent of the total 2014 number, at more than 9,600—have steadily increased by 49 percent since 2000. Across these industries, original equipment manufacturing and component supply count for more than 4,000 jobs.
  • Wages: More than $1 billion in total wages, with an average annual wage of about $71,000, or 42 percent above the statewide average annual wage of $50,100.
  • Businesses: Close to 800 establishments, more than double since 2000.
  • Innovation patents: Leapt to eight in the nation, up from twentieth a decade ago; Minnesota grew in both number and share of U.S. clean energy patents, at 112 total and 4.5 percent, respectively.
  • Early stage investment: $422 million from 2004 to 2013.
  • Project finance: $11 billion in private sector investment in renewable energy projects.

While the profile demonstrates that policies like those Fresh Energy helped move forward have assisted in driving investment in and adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, perhaps most important is that it lays a foundation for partnering across state agencies, industry, and nonprofits to understand Minnesota’s clean energy potential. This foundation, as well as economic development approaches such as regional cluster mapping, can better equip Minnesota to conduct deeper and richer analyses that inform how the state and the region can best encourage more jobs, wages, investments, and earnings—so we can achieve a highly competitive position in the global clean energy race.

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