by Chris de Morsella, Green Economy Post Chris is the co-editor of The Green Executive Recruiter Directory. Follow Chris on Twitter @greeneconpost

Major Green Industries with a significant presence in the state are: smart grid, solar, wind, green building, environmental, sustainability, energy efficiency.

The renewable energy, smart grid, green building and energy efficiency industries are becoming important contributors to the economy of North Carolina and important economic clusters are forming and these cleantech sectors are beginning to create significant numbers of jobs in the state. The NCSEA estimates more than $3.5 billion is generated annually from renewable energy and energy efficiency activities in North Carolina. The renewable energy and energy efficiency industries are expanding and increasingly resilient in North Carolina. Across the entire supply chain, these firms employ 10,250 workers, maintain a presence in all 100 North Carolina counties, and generate more than $3.5 billion in annual revenue. One of the most important themes found throughout this report is the economic impact of manufacturing firms. Manufacturers support the greatest percentage of reported employees and the highest average number of employees.

The renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors include a wide range positions that cover the supply chain. These growing cleantech sectors include: such positions as engineers at R&D firms, technicians at manufacturing facilities, skilled trades involved in the building industry, installers of renewable energy technologies, and professionals providing consulting, architectural, legal and accounting services. Most of the manufacturing firms in North Carolina continue to produce components – rather than end units – for the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.

The North Carolina Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Industries Census 2009 goes on to report that renewable energy manufacturers in North Carolina support an average of 36 employees per firm – the highest average among any business type considered.Further, manufacturers identify energy efficiency and solar power as the most important business focuses, at 40% and 26% respectively. The second greatest percentage of employment is in high performance building and retrofit, accounting for 20% of reported jobs. 85% of high performance building or retrofit businesses identify energy efficiency as the most important business focus. 60% of these companies chose solar power. 18% of green employment also originates from research and development firms. 15% of green jobs come from education, services, and consulting firms; 14%of green jobs in North Carolina come from renewable energy installers, designers or developers; smart grid firms support 3% of the reported jobs.

Through the prolonged economic downturn and tight credit markets, employment in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries increased 6% since July 2008. 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.

The Pew Charitable Trusts “Clean Energy Economy Report“ found that in 2007 North Carolina reported 1,783 cleantech businesses that provided a total of 16,997 green jobs. Over the decade 1998-2007 employment in the North Carolina cleantech sector grew by 15.3% compared with a 6.4% growth in overall employment for the state over the same period. Over the two year period (2006-2008) North Carolina saw around $82 million of venture capital invested in its cleantech sector.

Environmental Job in North Carolina

A new Ceres report finds that implementing two new air pollution rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will create 1.5 million jobs over the next five years. The power sector will invest almost $200 billion total in capital improvements over the next five years. Among the states that will see the biggest job gains from this construction activity are North Carolina. The Ceres report estimates that around 78,000 new environmental remediation and pollution control related jobs will be created in North Carolina as a result of these environmental standards.

Renewable Energy Jobs in North Carolina

In 2009 North Carolina had 52 renewable energy companies, and directly or indirectly employed 1,092 people in its renewable energy sectors.

Development of renewable energy sources in North Carolina as well as in increasing energy efficiency is supported by the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (Senate Bill 3), that has passed in the General Assembly. It will require investor-owned electric utilities in the state to provide up to 12.5% of electricity needs via either renewable energy sources or energy efficiency (up to 5%) by 2021. Legal limits on municipalities and homeowner associations to ban the installation of solar collectors has also been passed into state law by the General Assembly and this should help remove what all too often can be a contentious and stubborn roadblock to rooftop solar.

North Carolina was the ninth ranked state in the country for new solar PV installations in 2010, according to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research. Once it is complete, North Carolina will be home to the 2nd largest solar PV project on the east coast. Phase II of the Davidson County solar project was expected to begin adding 13.4 MW to the existing 4 MW facility in December 2010. In addition, at least five other non-residential projects are in the development pipeline, all of which have received the necessary permitting.

Clean Energy Pathways, a renewable energy company, has signed a joint venture agreement with Green Mountain Properties to develop a $28m solar power plant in Green Mountain, North Carolina.

North Carolina’s biopower projects consist of four landfill gas facilities, one waste-to-energy facility, one forestry residue incineration facility, and one biogas anaerobic digestion facility located at a landfill. Plans are in the works for three additional incineration facilities which will use poultry litter as feedstock, presumably to meet the state’s RPS carve-out for biopower from poultry litter.

Energy Efficiency and Green Building Jobs in North Carolina

The North Carolina General Assembly has passed a bill (Senate Bill 668) that requires that existing state buildings reduce energy consumption by 20% from baseline energy use in 2002-2003 by 2010. New state buildings must exceed national standards by 30%. More generally, while energy consumption continues to increase in North Carolina in response to a growing population, energy use per capita dropped slightly between 1995 and 2000 and substantially between 2000 and 2005, and this trend is continuing.

The high performance building and retrofit sector in North Carolina anticipates a 26% growth in the next year, and North Carolina is expected to produce a 36% increase in employment related to renewable energy and energy efficiency over the next year. These growth expectations would produce over 3,500 new jobs. Renewable energy installers, designers, and developers anticipate the greatest growth, accounting for one-quarter of anticipated new jobs.

In 2008, there were a total of 129 LEED certified buildings in North Carolina. In addition to the buildings already certified, almost 700 other North Carolina buildings now under construction or in the design stage have been registered for LEED certification on the U.S. Green Building Council’s website.

Smart Grid Jobs in North Carolina

North Carolina is developing into an important smart grid cluster for a variety of reasons that provide it with significant existing assets that make it a very attractive place for smart grid development to take place.

The “smart transformer” or digital transformer, that has been developed in pioneering work at North Carolina State University (NCSU) is a critical component of the smart grid. Relying on semiconductors rather than brainless mechanisms of current transformers, the device controls energy flow in both directions, managing interconnections with distributed power generation, from solar powered rooftops to plug-in electric cars, while minimizing energy waste. This key piece of infrastructure will enable the grid to begin acting more like a true network. One can think of the “smart transformer” as filling the role of the router for the smart grid; it is a vital part of the evolving grid. The solid state transformer is one of several dozen Smart Grid-related projects under way at the 3-year-old Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management (FREEDM) Center, which is headquartered at N.C. State University and coordinates research among five U.S. universities, and is a smart grid research consortium formed in 2008 with an $18.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

North Carolina’s two largest electric utilities, Progress Energy and Duke Energy, have been awarded maximum federal grant funds. The federal grants will help stimulate more rapid technology transfer within the electric grid and assist research of Smart Grid technologies.

Another motive force behind smart grid rollout in North Carolina is a result of the renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standard passed by the General Assembly (Session Law 2007-397), in August 2007, and making North Carolina the first state in the Southeast to implement one. This law requires investor-owned utilities to supply 12.5% of their electricity from renewable and efficiency sources by 2021, and municipal electric suppliers and rural electric cooperatives to supply 10% by
2018. Up to 25% of the 12.5% and 10% can be can be achieved through energy efficiency and after 2021, the percentage energy from efficiency increases to 40%.

What this means is that the states two big electric utilities have an incentive to build out the smart grid infrastructure, including rolling out smart meters.

The research triangle in North Carolina is an already well developed research cluster with existing firms and knowledge infrastructure. These important research anchor institutions developing the emerging smart grid infrastructure will be an important selling point to those promoting regional economic development, and will help them lure new firms, jobs, and associated opportunities to the research triangle region and more generally to the whole state.

North Carolina is a national smart grid headquarters hub; tied in third place with with Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and following behind California and New York. Companies with headquarters in the Triangle area include: ABB, which operates its US headquarters in Cary and has a R&D center at NCSU, Centennial Campus; Consert, headquartered in Raleigh, and makes intelligent load management systems (working with with Verizon); Elster, a provider of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solutions based in Raleigh that Elster is working with AT&T; Sensus, a developer of smart meters, in Raleigh; Tentalus Systems in Raleigh, a provider of smart grid communications solutions for Advanced Metering, Demand Response & Distribution Automation.

In addition to these firms that are headquartered in the state there are several important high tech engneering research and development powerhouses with important North Carolina operations. IBM, which already employs some 10,000 people in the research triangle. IBM has made the smart grid a key part of its corporate strategy and is already working with Progress Energy on a smart grid project. And Cisco, which operates its biggest campus outside of its California headquarters in RTP, is developing smart grid-related hardware at the Triangle campus.

The area is also spawning important venture-backed startups such as Phononic Devices, which recently raised $10 million, and is developng advanced thermoelectric devices that can efficiently manage and transform heat, and has a very wide array of potential applications from refrigeration, cooling to energy recovery from waste heat. Another important North Carolina smart grid related company is Sequentric, which is based in Wilmington, and is a manufacturer of demand response systems for electric utility companies and their customers.

North Carolina Careers in Sustainability

Sustainability is evolving and becoming more mainstream. As this occurs, it is increasingly becoming a part of business strategy within large corporations. This is particularly true in resource intensive industries and companies with workforces of more than 10,000. Colleges and universities have also increased their hiring of sustainability staff in the last year; especially in schools with enrollment of 10,000 or more and in research institutions.

Generally speaking there is more work in the sustainability field for those living in areas that are home to more large company headquarters and more large universities. As a result those living in North Carolina should see a significant increase in the number of sustainability opportunities. In fact, North Carolina is home to 24 Fortune 1000 companies and 133 colleges and universities. It has four research universities.

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