Clean Energy Jobs Powering North Carolina

Shortly, NCSEA and E2 are set to release a report describing the size and economic importance of the clean energy industry in North Carolina in 2019. Overall, clean energy has remained resilient throughout the recession. However, North Carolina's clean energy industry did experience negative impacts as a result of COVID-19, despite our status as No. 9 in the country for clean energy jobs in 2019. NCSEA highlighted the importance of clean energy jobs in our state and their crucial role in the third installment of our Making Energy Work Webinar Series: Clean Energy Jobs in NC and Clean Energy as a Recovery Mechanism from COVID-19.

The webinar discussed the state of clean energy jobs in North Carolina, why clean energy is uniquely positioned to help lead North Carolina's and the nation's economic recovery, and how you can help make the case to lawmakers for smart policies to keep clean energy moving forward.

Bob Keefe, E2's executive director, highlighted some of the key data from the Clean Jobs North Carolina report. Prior to COVID-19, clean energy employed approximately 3.4 million people nationally and 112,720 in North Carolina. Clean energy's growth outpaced the national average at 10.4% from 2015 to 2019. North Carolina lost 21,380 clean energy jobs from March to May but saw a 5,837 increase in June. Most of these job losses were in energy efficiency since many public and private buildings were closed to the public. The upward trend may continue, but it is difficult to predict given recent spikes in coronavirus cases and ongoing economic uncertainty.

After a look at the state of clean jobs in North Carolina and the Nation, Dionne Delli-Gatti from the Environmental Defense Fund discussed electric vehicle strategies in the era of COVID-19. EV sales are poised for growth, and as the number one driver of carbon emissions nationally, the transportation sector has an opportunity to be built back better than before the pandemic. Electricity is a more efficient fuel source than gasoline and the total cost of ownership for EVs is cheaper than traditional automobiles. As more states pledge to advance bus and truck electrification, investors will commit more money to manufacturers and drive the market.

The webinar concluded with remarks from John Hardin of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. He provided an overview of the results of the state's clean energy and clean transportation workforce assessment. Overall, the assessment concluded that North Carolina has a large, diverse range of industries and occupations in its clean economy. That diversity includes a burgeoning offshore wind industry, recently kickstarted by leases granted from the federal government off the coast of our state. Further, the Department of Commerce also recently issued an RFP for an analysis of the offshore wind industry supply chain and the steps needed to attract manufacturers to North Carolina.

North Carolina is meeting current clean energy workforce needs, largely due to strong education systems, and has room for further growth in its clean economy. History shows that clean energy will remain a stable stalwart of investment, revenue, and employment growth in North Carolina for years to come. Through the prolonged economic downturn of the Great Recession and tight credit markets, employment in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries increased 6% from 2008-2009. This signals the resilience of the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, especially when considering more than 200,000 jobs - or roughly 5% - of North Carolina jobs were lost from July 2008 to July 2009.
NCSEA will keep its members updated on the state of North Carolina's clean energy economy as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Please join NCSEA for the next installment of the Making Energy Work webinar series on August 11: Innovative Financing Models for Low and Moderate Income Participation in Clean Energy.

This post was written by NCSEA Intern Michael Meeks.

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