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Green Energy is Generating Jobs

Green Energy is Generating Jobs

By Don Willmott on August 21, 2015

Jobs jobs jobs. If there’s one thing that will generate excitement in the halls of America’s state capitols, it’s the promise of new jobs. And if those jobs happen to be “green” jobs that help position the state on the technological cutting edge, all the better.

Take North Carolina. It’s one of North America’s fastest growing markets for clean energy, “bringing jobs, bringing revenues, and increasing every year, outpacing other industries and regions,” Robin Aldina, Manager of Energy Research for the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA), told the ECOreport. “The number of jobs has grown every year since 2008, and there is no indication in our thriving economic climate that this growth is going to stop.”

In fact, according to the 2014 North Carolina Clean Energy Industry Census, the state’s cleantech sector grossed nearly $5 billion in 2014, and is expected to grow between 30 and 35 percent this year. There are 1,208 cleantech firms in the state employing the equivalent of 22,995 full-time workers and generating $4.8 billion of direct and indirect economic activity.

What are they working on? Mainly the efficiency of buildings. That sector produces about 40 percent of the state’s clean energy revenues, with 833 companies focusing on it through construction, consulting, or the installation of systems and components. The next-largest sector is solar, with 450 companies involved. North Carolina is ranked fourth nationwide in installed solar power, with more than 600 megawatts (MW) of capacity.

Things are going so well that the state has actually become an exporter. Up to 20 percent of its cleantech goods and services head out of state.

By the way, does your state do a cleantech census? Maybe it should.

One reason North Carolina has been so productive in the green arena is that the state has had a renewable energy investment tax credit of up to 35 percent in place for several years, and it’s on the books at least through the end of 2015. Another state, Illinois, is heading down the same path with a bill sponsored by State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and State Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) that would update Illinois’ Renewable Portfolio Standard in ways that they hope could create 32,000 clean energy jobs

The bill is designed to expand solar power and improve energy efficiency, in part by increasing the state’s renewable energy standard from 25 percent by 2025 to 35 percent by 2030, a move which, as you might imagine, does have its opponents, especially from the coal lobby. (Today, Illinois ranks 24th in solar.)

As Sen. Harmon said in a statement, “This bill benefits people in every part of Illinois, in our biggest cities, in suburbs, in farming communities – anywhere where people would gain from new jobs, better health and a cleaner environment. As strong as the clean energy economy is today, with 100,000 clean energy jobs throughout the state, Illinois is at a tipping point.”

It’s a smart strategy. Don’t talk about polar bears or rain forests. Just keep talking about jobs.


Don Willmott is a New York-based journalist who writes about technology, travel, and the environment for a wide variety of publications and websites.

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