By Grace Barbic
SPRINGFIELD – A national clean energy trade organization has released a report showing growth in electric transportation-related jobs in Illinois could position the state to lead the domestic supply chain.
Advanced Energy Economy, an industry association which promotes advanced energy technologies and services, released its “Electrifying Illinois” report which shows the state is on pace to reach 83 percent job growth in electric transportation-related work by 2024, regardless of legislative action.
The report was funded by the AEE and prepared by the research group BW Research Partnership with a focus on examining economic and job opportunities as the automotive industry transitions to electric.
The anticipated growth would drive the workforce numbers up from the current 5,200 workers in Illinois to roughly 9,500 workers within the next three years, or less than three years, according to the study, which used multiple data collection methods to analyze the state’s electric vehicle supply chain.
Daniel Bloom, who leads legislative campaigns across the Midwest for AEE, said this projected growth is a “conservative estimate.”
“This (report) is really looking at the opportunity for Illinois, but from the regional perspective,” Bloom said. “We don’t see a reason why Illinois can’t become a new Detroit.”
There were roughly 27,000 total electric vehicles registered in Illinois as of March 2021, Bloom said. AEE recommends the state reach 1.2 million electric vehicles by 2030, but “policymakers can accelerate this transition by taking the right steps in legislation this spring,” Bloom said.
The report outlines a number of policy recommendations, many of which align with Gov. JB Pritzker’s eight principles for a clean and renewable Illinois economy, which were released in August. AEE was a part of a working group for the governor’s office in the fall.
Some of AEE’s recommendations include establishing a tax credit for electric vehicle companies that relocate to Illinois or are located downstate, and initiating a regulatory process to emphasize building out “make-ready” charging infrastructure.
A “make-ready” is a parking space that is wired with electrical infrastructure to support electric vehicle charging that can be placed at multi-family dwellings, the workplace or other public interest sites.
Transportation accounted for about 28.2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, making it the largest contributor of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Some energy proposals currently being discussed in the General Assembly set goals for electric vehicle developments in Illinois because of the public health and environmental impacts of the traditional transportation industry.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act, sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, would aim to transition public transportation to an electric fleet, create an initiative to incentivize electric vehicle charging and create a program to ensure access to electric vehicles, among other efforts. The stated goal is to electrify the state’s transportation sector by 2030.
Several other measures are being considered as well, from a union-backed bill to one backed by downstate energy provider Ameren, to another “coal to solar” transition measure. All have come before committees in recent weeks as lawmakers consider a broader regulatory reform package that could include facets from all of the proposals.
Illinois Clean Air Now, a coalition of clean energy, health advocacy and transportation stakeholders, is urging the General Assembly to include comprehensive transportation electrification legislation as part of the overhaul package.
In a news release distributed by the coalition, Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health at the Respiratory Health Association, said Illinois has a historic chance to clean the air, improve quality of life and reduce health care burdens by passing electrification legislation.
“Transportation policies focused on eliminating harmful tailpipe emissions, like the ones under consideration here, can significantly reduce deadly air pollution,” Urbaszewski said of discussion of energy bills in the General Assembly.
Illinois Clean Air Now said that prioritizing electrification efforts would also have economic benefits. The release cited two projections that conclude Illinois electric vehicle adoption “could result in cumulative net benefits that range from $12 to $45 billion statewide by 2050,” according to the release.
Electronic transportation activity in Illinois, according to the “Electrifying Illinois” report, contributed $850 million to Gross State Product based on data from the 2019 United States Energy Employment Report, which was produced by the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Institute.
“With investments that we’re seeing in the state from companies like Rivian, we hope that this is a signal to encourage additional private investment in the state of Illinois and make us a global leader in not just meeting the demand that we have locally in the state or regionally, but because of the globalized nature of this supply chain, being able to meet that with work that’s done in Illinois is really critical,” Bloom said.
Through data collection, the analysis found that Illinois has 560 electric-transportation related businesses in 97 of its 102 counties. The state already has a significant motor vehicle manufacturing presence, with 3,400 workers, or two-thirds of those employed in electric transportation, working in manufacturing.
About 70,000 workers in manufacturing industries that are currently not directly involved with the electric transportation businesses, but have characteristics similar to companies that are, would require “relatively little training” to transition to this type of work, the report found. Examples of these types of businesses include general automobile manufacturing, specialty transformer manufacturing, or machine shops, to name a few.
“It’s not just companies that have built up as servicing only the electric vehicle supply chain, but it’s also companies that have had operations across a various number of sectors that are starting to build this into their operational capacity,” Bloom said. “So that’s fascinating as we look at emerging opportunities across the whole supply chain.”
Training programs in electric transportation services could potentially “offer a lifeline to those (manufacturing industries), which shed 15,900 jobs across the state between 2014 and 2019,” according to the report.
As demand for electric vehicles increases, so does the demand for charging infrastructure.
Bloom emphasized that expanding necessary training programs in the state is essential to continued growth in the industry, which is why AEE recommends broadening geographic reach and availability of the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program.
That program already exists in some areas in Illinois. But AEE said that by partnering with junior colleges, trade schools and labor organizations, “the state can create a steady pipeline to develop its EV workforce.”
The Biden administration has also set the stage for the electrification conversation through its investments in electric vehicle infrastructure. The White House recently released its American Jobs Plan, which is a $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal that includes $174 billion for the electric vehicle market.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.