Originally published on the ECOreport.
North Carolina is one of North America’s fastest growing markets for clean energy. The state’s cleantech sector grossed $4.8 billion in 2014 and, based on their previous experience, most companies expect to grow between 30% and 35% this year. Close to ¾ of this money went to building efficiency and solar. According to Robin Aldina, Manager of Energy Research for the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA), “Clean energy in North Carolina is bringing jobs, bringing revenues, and increasing every year, outpacing other industries and regions.”
Aldina is the primary author of the 2014 North Carolina Clean Energy Industry Census.
“The number of jobs has grown every year since the first census was taken (2008) and there is no indication in our thriving economic climate that this growth is going to stop,” he said.
“The state has a renewable energy investment tax credit which is scheduled to expire at the end of 2015, not before,” added NCSEA executive director Ivan Urlaub. “Many renewable energy firms are expecting continued activity in 2015 and a lot of them have been making plans and modifications to their business models to prepare for the potential likelihood the state tax may not be extended or will be extended with modifications.”
Last year, there were 1,208 firms employing the equivalent of 2,295 full-time workers.
The census records “fractions of employees.” Many perform routines that are not classified as “clean energy,” so this portion of their time is not recorded.
“This is a very conservative estimate of how many jobs there are in the industry,” said Adina.
Much of the credit for this sector’s growth goes to North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), which was enacted in 2007.
“We have not been motivated by maximizing the deployment of energy efficiency measures, renewable energy or energy storage systems. Instead we have been motivated by optimizing the deployment of these clean energy products and services into the grid, and economy, in a way that keeps us on a path towards reliability, affordability, and customer accessibility,” said Urlaub. “So our policies do not appear terribly aggressive and we have regularly been criticized by advocates in the rest of the country for not reaching very far in any given year.”
He added, “On the flip side of that, we’ve been able to measure the market activity, the deployment of technology, and the economic and ratepayer impacts.”
NCSEA created the census in 2008, a first of its kind nationally, to measure the impact of North Carolina’s clean energy policies and identify where policy is and is not achieving the results that policymakers, economic developers, and industry members envisioned.
The census is one of many market intelligence reports that NCSEA leads to measure the impact and acceptance of clean energy across the state.
“We are finalizing another report for release soon that shows that clean energy is actually making electricity rates lower than what they would have been,” said Urlaub.
There were billions of dollars of economic activity, both directly and indirectly, as a result of clean energy deployment.
The biggest clean energy sector is energy efficiency, which produces 39% of all clean energy revenues. According to Urlaub, new construction is one of the driving forces. He has seen some net zero energy homes and also passive home designs, but this is not something the NCSEA keeps track of. They do tabulate:
- Developers or installers of more efficient lighting technologies or HVAC systems;
- Producers or installers of other energy conservation technologies for buildings;
- Energy Star, LEED, or EarthCraft builders;
- Developers of more efficient manufacturing processes
The next-largest sector is solar, 34% of all revenues, and North Carolina is currently ranked fourth nationwide in installed solar power with more than 600 megawatts (MW) of capacity.
Technology sectors like energy storage and smart grid are sending increasingly larger numbers of their goods and services out of the state. Energy storage companies are sending 18% of their products to national and international markets, while smart grid firms see 25% of their merchandise and expertise leave the Southeast region.
“When I joined NCSEA as executive director in 2005, there was no real pathway for investors into our market, but through incremental steps and attainable goals we have successfully accelerated the rate of clean energy adoption and acceptance and North Carolina continues to progress as the region and nation’s clean energy hub. Our state is not only better off with clean energy, it’s thriving – and becoming a national model for how clean energy development can help strengthen economic competitiveness,” added Urlaub.