Efforts to utilize green energy, clean tech and to improve energy efficiency are saving North Carolina money and creating jobs.

So concludes a report issued Monday by RTI International and Boston-based consulting firm La Capra Associates.

“Over the 20-year period since the start of clean energy policies in North Carolina, rates are expected to be lower than they would have been had the state continued to only use existing, conventional generation sources,” the report says.

Related programs created an average of more than 4,000 jobs a year from 2007 through 2012, the report says.

Looking ahead, it forecasts that efficiency programs and greater use of clean energy, such as solar, will save consumers an average of more than $1 per month.

“[I]n all but a few years customers can expect savings in the generation portion of their electric bills as a result of clean energy policies such as REPS [Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard as passed by the N.C. General Assembly], state and federal tax credits, and energy efficiency incentives. For a typical North Carolina residential customer, the monthly savings amount to almost $0.50 in 2012 and more than $1.00 by 2024,” the report concluded.

The report, which was prepared for the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, also found that the clean energy sector and incentives from government “spurred” $1.4 billion in project investment across the state over six years.

Incentives cost the state “an estimated $72 million.” 

Based in its findings, the report concludes that the clean tech efforts were a net plus for the state.

Projects “contributed an estimated $1.7 billion between 2007 and 2012 to the gross state product, including secondary effects,” the authors said. “This estimate includes renewable energy project construction and operation benefits, state costs and incentives, reduced conventional energy generation, utility customer fees, and energy efficiency benefits.”

The efforts “created or retained 21,163 job years from 2007 to 2012,” according to the data.

NCSEA Touts Findings

The NC energy group embraced the report’s findings.

“This report is a clear indicator of the direct and indirect positive impact clean energy is having on North Carolina’s economy and workforce, as well as generating additional state and local tax revenues,” said Betsy McCorkle, the director of Government Affairs for the NCSEA. “For example, every $1 North Carolina invests in tax credits for renewable energy state and local governments are seeing at least $1.87 flow back into their coffers to support core functions of government like transportation, education, and public safety. That’s a great return on investment that is benefiting all North Carolinians, especially in some of our rural communities.”

Ivan Urlaub, the executive director of the group, noted the report’s findings about utility bills as being very important.

“Some electricity customers in our state may think their electric bills are higher because of our state’s clean energy policies. Plain as day on their electric bills they see ‘REPS rider’ and ‘energy efficiency rider’ and assume their bills would be lower if those charges were not there,” he said in a statement. “In fact, this study finds that if those policies and charges did not exist, all customers’ electric bills would be higher, not lower, than they are today. Our state’s clean energy policies are not only positioning North Carolina’s clean energy industry as a top national and global competitor, these policies are making all North Carolina industries more cost competitive and keeping more money in our state economy by avoiding about $173 million in electricity costs over 20 years.”

The study also found “no appreciable rate impact to residential, commercial, and industrial customer groups through 2026 resulting from state renewable energy and energy efficiency policies. By 2026, this switch to clean energy will lead to $173 million in cost savings.”

Three counties led the way in renewable energy projects with more than $100 million in investments:

  • Davidson
  • Person
  • Robeson

Seven others, including Wake, have been the site of projects worth between $25 million and $100 million.

The others were:

  • Beaufort
  • Cabarrus
  • Catawba
  • Cleveland
  • Duplin
  • Mecklenburg

The report says North Carolina “is a leader among Southern states in developing public policies to foster statewide clean energy development. Between 2007 and 2012, clean energy investment increased 13-fold and generated or saved more than 8.2 million MWh [megawatt hours] of energy through a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.”

A megawatt hours is roughly the equivalent to the amount of electricity used by about 330 homes during one hour, according to the Clean Energy Authority website. 

A Rosier Report Last Fall

The Sustainable Energy Association in its own report last fall was more positive in terms of jobs and economic benefit.

The clean energy  responsible was for more than 15,200 full-time jobs and $3.7 billion in revenue, it said.

“The 2012 Census shows that employment in the North Carolina clean energy sector grew for the fifth consecutive year, although at a slower pace than in past years that saw double-digit growth,” the NCSEA reported. “There are over 1,100 clean energy firms employing more than 15,200 full-time equivalent employees across 86 North Carolina counties.”