Five years ago, the Wisconsin Energy Institute opened its doors for the first time. Since then, we've hosted hundreds of programs, created opportunities for dialogue, and facilitated groundbreaking research on one of the biggest challenges of our time - the transition to new, clean energy systems and solutions. We've also had the privilege of welcoming a diverse body of energy experts whose commitment to collaboration has given this multi-disciplinary institute life, building WEI into a force for transforming the way we source and use energy.
Looking back on those five years reveals some remarkable milestones, both within WEI and without. The economic case for clean energy, for example, has never been stronger. In 2016, there were close to three times as many Americans working in the clean energy economy than in coal, oil, and gas, and many of those jobs were and remain in rural America. And here at WEI, we continue to find ways to conduct the research that will drive job creation and change lives for the better. Since 2012, we have garnered more than $140 million in research funding. And in 2017 we secured a commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund Great Lakes Bioenergy for five more years.
We've also made meaningful connections between our work and the state, demonstrating our long-held commitment to the Wisconsin Idea. Our research, education, and outreach seeks to usher cutting edge ideas out of the lab and into the lives of Wisconsin's citizens, its government and industry leaders, and other stakeholders. Our bioenergy research promises to forge a stronger bioeconomy for farmers. Our outreach with K-12 teachers has touched thousands of Wisconsin students per year. And our work with industry has made Wisconsin's energy sector stronger.
Over the years, we've ramped up our efforts in energy education too, making good on a promise to prepare UW-Madison students to lead in the transition to clean energy. Our students now have the option to complete an undergraduate certificate in engineering for energy sustainability, develop innovative new ideas and technologies for the Wisconsin Energy and Sustainability Competition, or participate in the U.S. collegiate wind competition as members of the WiscWind team. By providing students with opportunities to solve real-world energy problems, we are preparing them for careers in energy that will flourish on their determination as much as their innovation.
We've had the privilege of welcoming a diverse body of energy experts whose commitment to collaboration has given this multi-disciplinary institute life, building WEI into a force for transforming the way we source and use energy.Tim Donohue
This milestone year is also, of course, an opportunity to look to the future and to build on what we've learned over WEI's first five years. Looking forward, we will continue to be bold in taking on grand challenges, believing that together we can and will make important leaps forward. We will continue to broker conversations between stakeholders to ensure that a variety of voices and areas of expertise are brought in to solution making. And we will continue to look for new and innovative ways to use multi-disciplinary research to accelerate the rate at which we can discover and deploy new ideas and new technologies.
In closing, I would like to thank outgoing interim director Ian Coxhead for his year of service to WEI, and to thank the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education for their continued recognition of the value that WEI brings to the campus and the state. I am proud of the work that WEI has done and excited about its future. And I speak for hundreds of talented researchers, students, and staff when I say that it remains our privilege and our pleasure to move forward in energy with you, in 2018 and in all the years to come.