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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Green Means Gold In North Carolina
Story from iStockAnalyst.com

Clean energy companies have been creating jobs in North Carolina at more than twice the rate of the rest of the economy, a new report finds.

And the real boom is just about to sound, predicts Rusty Stephens, president of Wilson Community College.

wilson homesGreen jobs are "the one bright spot in an otherwise difficult economic landscape," Stephens said this week.

The report, "The Clean Energy Economy: Repowering Jobs, Businesses and Investments Across America," was released Monday by The Pew Charitable Trusts. It looks at jobs created by environmentally friendly products and services.

Between 1998 and 2007, jobs in North Carolina's clean energy economy grew at a rate of 15.3 percent while overall jobs in the state grew by 6.4 percent, the analysis found.

As of 2007, 1,783 clean energy business in the state employed 17,000 North Carolinians. More than $82 million was invested in those companies between 2006-2008.

"Those investments, along with North Carolina's renewable energy and energy efficiency policies, should help the state's clean energy economy expand even further," said Morgan Jackson, N.C. representative for the Pew Environment Group.

"I've said before, and I will say again: Green is gold for North Carolina," Gov. Bev Perdue said Monday in a statement. "To get green right, we must build on our strengths that attract green companies -- a well-trained, educated workforce; existing relationships between businesses and research institutions; and a strong link between energy policy and economic development."

Stephens, who has championed green energy during his presidency at WCC, said the Pew report bears out what he's seeing at his campus.

"The time has come for large jumps in demand for these jobs," Stephens said Monday. "There's tremendous opportunity."
Nationally, jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a rate of 9.1 percent while total jobs grew by only 3.7 percent, between 1998 and 2007
The college recently hosted a meeting for employers to talk about the need for workers who are trained to retrofit residential and commercial properties for lower energy consumption. WCC is now developing a weatherization certification program for students.

The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes money for weatherization work, Stephens said. But there is also a need to conserve energy from a resource management angle.

"There's still so much money to be saved on the efficiency side," he said.

Making buildings more efficient would cut the country's energy consumption, lessening the need for new power plants and the use of fuels that create greenhouse gases, Stephens said.

Perdue's energy plan includes the use of $18 million in federal recovery funds to create an Energy Investment Revolving Loan Fund. The fund will provide low- and no-interest loans, up to $1 million, to finance energy-saving projects at businesses, schools, nonprofits, state agencies and local governments.

She also proposes another $10 million to expand the state's Green Business Fund to provide support to new, emerging and expanding green economy businesses.

North Carolina ranked among the top 12 states for green job growth. Nationally, jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a rate of 9.1 percent while total jobs grew by only 3.7 percent, between 1998 and 2007.

The complete study is available online at www.pewtrusts.org/cleanenergyeconomy .

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Copyright (c) 2009, The Wilson Daily Times, N.C.