Clean energy-related firms employ nearly 23,000 people across North Carolina and now represent nearly $5 billion a year in economic impact, according to an annual survey conducted by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association. Plus, many firms are hiring. 

The job total is 5,000 higher than reported in the 2014 report.

The survey, which has been conducted since 2008, says clean energy-sector jobs have grown to 22,995 from 15,200 in 2012.

Building efficiency firms employ the most workers at 11,277, or 49 percent,

Solar is next at 4,307 or 19 percent.

Biomass firms employ 3,246 or 14 percent.

Energy storage and smart grid firms are next at 1,306 and 1,045 respectively.

Economic impact rose to $4.8 billion last year, up $1.2 billion a year earlier.

The group also says companies have invested $2.7 billion in clean energy infrastructure since 2007.

North Carolina ranks No. 4 as a state in solar installations, and the group says that tax incentives (the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit) has returned $1.93 for each $1.

Driving the growth are building efficiency and solar firms which are responsible for 38 percent and 21 percent of the some 1,200 clean energy related firms. 

“In light of recurring policy uncertainty, the growth in clean energy employment in North Carolina has been steady and encouraging,” the report adds.

“The most notable finding in employment from this year’s Census is the dominance of the Building Efficiency sector as a clean energy employer. Accounting for nearly one half of all the FTE in the industry, Building Efficiency is certainly the leader in providing clean energy jobs. It is also interesting to note that the majority of jobs in Building Efficiency are currently involved with the Design and Construction of New Buildings. This is promising both as an indicator of broad economic health in the state and as a signal that energy efficient buildings are in high demand. Firms in this sector, however, are not as optimistic about job growth next year as firms in some other sectors.

“Also worth noting about 2014 clean energy employment is the rise in jobs in the Storage sector. Up nearly 50% from 2012, there are now 1,306 FTE working on energy storage in North Carolina. More than half of these are involved in Manufacturing, which should bode well for the state as we see a greater utilization of storage technologies over the next several years.”

Concludes the report:

“We anticipate growth to continue this year, with participating firms from all sectors of the state’s clean energy industry reporting they anticipate to hire additional workers in 2015.”