As clean energy jobs continue to increase across Colorado, Mesa County is also experiencing growth with more than 1,100 full-time jobs in the sector, according to a recent report.
Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) recently released its Clean Jobs Colorado report, which states that Colorado had about 60,000 clean energy jobs at the end of 2018. Mesa County ranked 11th in the state with 1,122 jobs, according to the data. The 10 counties in front of Mesa are on the Front Range. Statewide, employers are predicting 10% growth in 2019. The industry is expected to pick up further as Gov. Jared Polis pushes toward his stated goal of having Colorado achieve 100% renewable energy by 2040.
Nearly 4,000 new jobs in the clean energy sector have been created since 2016 in the state. Previous reports did not have specific data related to Mesa County, but E2 Mountain West Advocate Susan Nedell said the Grand Junction area has had similar growth in comparison to the state as a whole.
E2 is a nonpartisan group of business leaders who advocate for both the economy and environment. There are nine chapters across the country. The organization recently began releasing annual reports on clean energy jobs for about a dozen states, including Colorado. The organization was founded in 2000.
According to the report, more than half of the state's clean energy jobs deal with energy efficiency. That includes companies who deal with building or remodeling structures to improve, for example, insulation or an HVAC system. About 17,000 jobs are in the renewable energy sector, including solar and wind. Those jobs are likely to see a spike.
"We expect solar and wind to pick up in a big way," Nedell said.
Jobs dealing with alternative transportation still rank low overall, but have had some drastic growth, which Nedell said is encouraging.
Out of the 60,000 jobs in Colorado, more than 60% work for smaller employers with 30 employees or less, the report states.
"That's great news for the Western Slope and jobs in new sectors," Nedell said. "There's lots of small innovative companies."
Locally, the Grand Junction Cleantech Business Coalition has advocated for clean energy organizations in the community.
Director Kenneth Scissors has compiled an inventory of businesses that he says would at least partially be considered in the clean technology sector. He also lists businesses such as Alpine Bank that have supported the industry, and he highlighted programs and partnerships within School District 51 and Colorado Mesa University related to the industry.
"I see that there is a lot of clean tech businesses here already. I know there has been a lot of interest," he said. "We have tremendous potential in the solar and efficiency realms."
The list includes companies like Senergy Builders, which is working on a development near Corn Lake, building energy-efficient homes.
Atlasta Solar Center is also on Scissors' inventory. The solar panel installer has served the Grand Valley for 40 years and now handles much of western Colorado.
Project Manager Christopher Campbell said interest is steadily growing, which means the company will soon need to add to its 30 employees.
"There's more interest from residents and business owners who realize the importance of sustainable energy, cleaner energy and being able to transition to new solutions at a lower cost," Campbell said.
Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Diane Schwenke has also noticed the growth of the clean energy industry and expects it to continue locally.
"Businesses have a vested interest in using energy wisely and reducing overall utility and other energy costs," she said. "With that in mind, I anticipate we will see continued growth in energy efficiency and renewable energy jobs."
Scissors added that it would not take much to expedite the industry's growth in the community, either.
"The pieces are all there," he said. "What is missing is recognizing the potential for that and identifying clean tech for what it is and promoting it through economic development, institutions, the university and other avenues."