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N.C. green jobs census to start Friday

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The N.C. Sustainable Association is about to conduct a count of companies and jobs that make up the state's clean energy sector. 

The Raleigh-based group will begin its annual census Friday, with emails sent out to about 1,800 companies it identifies as part of the sector. The organization will follow-up with phone calls to companies that don't respond to email.

Classifying and estimating the size of the green economy is an inexact science at best, resulting in widely divergent results, depending on criteria used. There is no uniform standard on what counts as a green job.

The sustainable energy association limits its definition to energy efficiency, renewable energy, smart grid, green buildings and electric vehicles.

Thus, the group counted 12,500 jobs as part of the sector in its last census.

Compare that to the nearly 79,000 green jobs counted in North Carolina by the Brookings Institution in a study issued yesterday. Brookings uses a totally different definition, including jobs in law, insurance, arts and entertainment.

One can quibble with Brookings' expansive definitions, but the benefit of the think tank's study is that its numbers can be used to compare green economies across states and regions.

The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association expects its total to increase in this year's count. The 12,500 jobs counted last time were based on an estimated 1,161 companies. The company total has grown to 1,800, and the jobs are likely to increase correspondingly.

The association's study is very specific in its classificaitons and definitions so as not to pad the results and inflate the size of the green economy. To qualify, a company has to meet at least one of these criteria: 

• Allocate at least 50 percent of staff time to work related to renewable energy or energy efficiency;
• Generate at least 50 percent of revenue from work related to renewable energy or energy efficiency; or
• Generate at least $25,000 in economic gain (revenue, avoided costs, etc.) from work directly related to renewable energy or energy efficiency.

The association, with about 600 members, runs conferences and training sessions, and lobbies the state legislature on energy-related policy.


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About the blogger

John Murawski has been a full-time newspaper reporter since 1991, with stints at Legal Times and The Chronicle of Philanthropy (both in Washington, DC), The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Palm Beach Post (in South Florida) before arriving at the N&O in December 2004. At the N&O he covers energy (nuclear, coal, renewable, efficiency), hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking"), public utilities and health care. His beat includes PSNC Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, Duke Energy Progress, PowerSecure International, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Biogen Idec and others. He has also contributed more than 30 book reviews on topics spanning botany, history, science and religion. You can reach him at 919-829-8932 or e-mail him.