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Report: NC's Clean Energy Sector Grows

A new report finds North Carolina’s clean energy jobs grew 3.5% last year, nearly double the statewide employment growth of 1.9%.  BPR’s Helen Chickering has details.

More than 110,000 North Carolinians now work in the clean energy industry that includes solar, wind or other fields  according to an analysis by  E2 – Environmental Entrepreneurs  a national  organization made up  business people who promote environmentally friendly policies and jobs.  

The report* finds more than 7-thousand  clean energy jobs are here in Western North Carolina, with Buncombe County ranking number 5 among the state’s 100 counties.  Bob Keefe is E2’s executive director and a North Carolina native.

Bob Keefe, Executive Director E2 Environmental Entrepreneurs

“I watched the state go from textiles and tobacco to banking to biotech, I really think NC is positioned to become a national leader in clean energy just like it was in those industries in the past, " says Keefe.

Keefe says  transformative policies, like the Governor’s Executive Order 80 setting  a series of goals including reducing the use fossil fuel in state government and  Buncombe County’s resolution to reach 100 percent renewable energy for county operations help create the roadmaps to make that happen.

*The report is based on data from the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) produced by the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) in partnership with the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO). E2 is a partner on the USEER, the fourth installment of the energy survey first released by the Department of Energy in 2016 and subsequently abandoned under the Trump administration.

Other highlights from Clean Jobs North Carolina 2019:

  • 80% of clean energy employers reported it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” hiring qualified workers
  • More than 4 out of every 5 clean energy workers are employed by businesses with fewer than 20 employees
  • Construction (44.3%) and manufacturing (16.8%) make up the majority of clean energy jobs.
  • 3,468 North Carolinians now work in grid modernization (2,124) and energy storage (1,344)
  • 11.4 % of North Carolinians employed in clean energy are veterans – nearly double the percentage of veterans in the overall national workplace (6%)
  • 22 counties employ at least 1,000 clean energy workers

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.