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Renewable energy an economic boon for NC | Other Views |

By Aaron Nelson

A 2007 compromise among utilities, legislators, regulators and community groups brought substantial investments in domestic renewable energy. The 2007 standard is working and fueling job growth and economic investment that is good for the economy, good for business and good for consumers.

We must support Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.

How do we know it’s working?

Since 2007, our state’s clean energy sector has generated $1.7 billion in gross state product and created thousands of new jobs.

The 2012 NC Clean Energy Industries Census showed that N.C.’s clean energy industry included more than 1,100 companies generating at least $3.7 billion in annual revenue.

In other words, the North Carolina renewable energy sector is booming.

Throughout the state, economic development professionals are working with hundreds of companies driving regional growth and positioning North Carolina as a global leader in clean domestic energy production, clean technologies and energy efficiency.

For example, Western North Carolina’s FLS Energy has been named INC 500’s fastest growing company in North Carolina for two years straight, bringing $80 million of investment into North Carolina.

In Eastern North Carolina, companies have expressed interest in building wind farms off our state’s shore, which the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates to have the best offshore wind resources on the East Coast.

Triangle-based investor SJF Ventures nearly doubled its investment fund for sustainable businesses to $48.8 million.

Orange County-based Strata Solar, one of the largest solar firms in the nation, has 64 full-time employees and by the end of 2013 will generate $500 million in annual revenue and hire over 850 construction workers to build solar energy farms all across North Carolina.

And overall, North Carolina is now ranked fifth in the nation in cumulative installed solar capacity, with enough solar farms installed to power 22,000 homes.

Pro-clean energy policies like the compromise standard put in place by the legislature in 2007 are the driving force behind these investments and the resulting economic growth.

But businesses and investors are not the only ones benefiting from the North Carolina clean energy boom.

Over the next 20 years, the adopted standard will help North Carolina’s ratepayers save $173 million in electricity costs according to a recent study by RTI International and La Capra.

With these benefits, it’s no wonder a recent poll found that more than 75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Independents said state leaders should seek more alternative or renewable energy sources in order to provide consumers and businesses with electricity.

As business leaders, we think investing in energy efficiency and domestic renewable energy is smart business.

Our state’s current renewable energy and energy efficiency standard was the result of a successful negotiation between stakeholders from every party and interest, and it is working.

On behalf of our economy, our communities and our member businesses, we urge our state legislators to maintain the existing standard, which has already paid dividends.

Let’s not stifle the growth of one of the fastest-growing sectors of North Carolina’s economy.

Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, is co-chairman of the Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, a national network of over 300 local chambers of commerce.

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