Clean Energy Powers Up North Carolina’s Economy

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

It may seem ironic for a state that enacted a ban on sea level rise, but renewable energy is powering up North Carolina’s economy by attracting investment, creating jobs, and lowering utility bills.

North Carolina state flag
North Carolina state flag image via Shutterstock

These findings come from a new study, Economic, Utility Portfolio, and Rate Impact of Clean Energy Development in North Carolina,” commissioned by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA).

Renewables and energy efficiency have made the state a beacon among Southern  economies by creating tens of thousands of new jobs, saving millions of megawatt hours (MWh) of energy, and generating billions in state revenue since 2007.

Three key state policies have driven this growth according to NCSEA – the state’s Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), which requires utilities to generate 12.5% of retail sales from renewables or efficiency measure by 2021; a 35% renewable energy tax credit; and the Utility Savings Initiative, which supports energy efficiency projects in public buildings.

Big Government And Ratepayer Savings

The biggest winner in North Carolina’s clean energy surge seems to be the bottom line – for both government and ratepayers. Between 2007 and 2012, the entire state saved an estimated 8.2 million MWh of energy, roughly equal with annual electricity consumption for the 1.3 million people living in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Fayetteville.

During that same five-year period, energy efficiency measures saved government entities $427 million dollars, while every dollar invested in tax incentives returned $1.87 in state or local revenue. And, by 2026 the state’s clean energy transition will save electricity customers $173 million more than they would have paid if the three driving policies weren’t in place.

North Carolina clean energy ratepayer impact
North Carolina clean energy ratepayer impact image via NCSEA

Surging Investments Generate Green Jobs

The clean energy transition is also generating serious economic benefits. Investment in renewables and energy efficiency has increased 13-fold since 2007, creating $1.7 billion in direct benefits and $2.56 billion in associated spending across the state’s economy. Unsurprisingly, solar power hit grid parity last year in several regions.

While North Carolina’s Research Triangle has become a Silicon Valley for smart grid technology, the clean energy wave has spilled across the state. Over $100 million of new investment has occurred in three counties each – Davidson, Robeson, and Person – not to mention new plans for the largest solar farm east of the Mississippi River.

North Carolina clean energy investment
North Carolina clean energy investment image via NCSEA

All this investment has created thousands of good jobs while the economy has slowed. North Carolina saw a net gain of 21,162 job years since 2007 from clean energy development, during the same period the state lost 100,000 overall jobs.

Indeed, NCSEA’s 2012 Clean Energy Industries Census estimated over 15,200 full-time green jobs existed at 1,100 companies across 86 of the state’s 100 counties, with those companies generating $3.7 billion in annual revenue.

A Bright Spot In Slow Southern Economies?

Taken as a whole, the transition to a clean energy future has become an economic driver for the Tar Heel state, and is “positioning North Carolina’s clean energy industry as a top national and global competitor,” said Ivan Urlaub, NCSEA Executive Director. “These policies are making all North Carolina industries more cost competitive and keeping more money in our state economy.”

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

3 thoughts on “Clean Energy Powers Up North Carolina’s Economy

  • Here are the forces that are lining up to kill North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard, which is partially responsible for the success mentioned above: ALEC legislators like Rep. Mike Hager, ALEC member-company Duke Energy, the Heartland Institute and other State Policy Network groups shilling for fossil fuel interests paying their salaries:

    –Connor Gibson, Researcher, Greenpeace USA

    • It costs more to influence a lawmaker’s decision these days…


  • The competing fossil industry won’t allow this, they need to financially influence more lawmakers… very sloppy of them to let this happen.


Comments are closed.