Clean energy is becoming a bigger part of the Mesa County economy even after the contraction caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
There were over 1,100 clean energy jobs in the county at the start of 2020, and 62,420 statewide, according to Environmental Entrepreneurs, a nonpartisan group that promotes green businesses through out the U.S. Both numbers were an increase from the previous year.
“It’s a budding industry that can do a lot of good here,” said Steve Jozefczyk, deputy director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, who also spoke at a virtual meeting on Wednesday unveiling the clean energy job numbers.
“The reality is that we’ve seen a decline in extraction. But luckily for those workers, their skills are easily transferable with little to no training.”
The number of jobs added capped a strong 2019 for the green industries.
The third quarter was the first one in the city’s history in which the economy grew while oil and gas declined, Jozefczyk said.
This success comes with caveats, though.
As with any other industry, clean energy suffered because of the pandemic.
Data shows that 7,278 Colorado jobs were erased from the industry by April and though that number has improved since, Environmental Entrepreneurs is forecasting a 3% overall job loss.
However, experts sounded optimistic that the industry will bounce back. Clean energy is becoming more cost-effective and, in a COVID-19 world, it is easier to socially distance trade jobs, Jozefczyk said.
GJEP has begun to focus more efforts on attracting clean tech businesses into the valley that focus on developing efficient sources of renewable energy, such as solar panels and windmills, Jozefczyk added.
Others in the city are also seeing the benefit of clean energy.
Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, said that this growth can mean good things for the county.
She noted the need for diverse industry, pointing to the volatility that can come with extraction industries.
“We’ve been in need of diversification of industries here. We’ve learned in the past that we can’t put all of our eggs into one basket,” Schwenke said. “Take a look at tourism communities, they’ve been decimated by the pandemic. The more diverse an economy is, the more resilient it is.”