Clean energy on upswing, employs 18,000 in SC

rburris@thestate.comOctober 2, 2013 

— Clean energy continued to claw its way into greater awareness in South Carolina last year, a new report shows, adding jobs and growing revenue.

A survey of 161 firms showed employment in the state’s clean energy sector in 2012 rose 3.6 percent, or more than twice as fast as jobs in the state’s overall economy, according to the S.C. Clean Energy Business Alliance.

Nearly 18,000 full-time employees worked in the upstart clean energy industries in the state this year, the Alliance’s annual report, South Carolina Clean Energy Jobs Census, showed.

The clean energy sector also generated more than $813 million in gross revenue in the state in 2012, an 11.9 percent increase over 2011, the report said.

The report defines a clean energy firm as having at least one employee in 2012 who dedicated a portion of his or her work time to clean energy.

While incentives underpin much of the impetus for business in the clean energy sector, demand also is moving the industry forward toward greater self-sufficiency, officials said Wednesday.

“The increase in clean energy jobs in South Carolina taking place today, along with the rising demand for cleaner sources of energy as we move toward a less carbon-dependent future, calls for our state to create the best environment possible to support this industry’s continued success,” said Jim Poch, S.C. Clean Energy Business Alliance executive director.

The Alliance, founded in 2011, is committed to building a diverse alliance of businesses across the state that is dedicated to creating a clean energy industry in the Palmetto State, it says. This is its second clean energy census.

The Great Recession interrupted the rise in the number of new firms entering the clean energy industry in the state between 2007 and 2009, the report indicates, but the increase since 2009 has been steady.

The report tracked all clean energy industries in the state, including solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric, geothermal, smart grid, energy efficiency, energy storage, and alternative fuels.

The report also found:

•  Solar energy and improving energy efficiency/building sciences topped all categories for increase since 1980 and has more products in the local markets than any other category.

•  The state’s largest clean energy clusters of firms are located in the three metropolitan areas of the state, with Columbia ranking at the top, followed by Charleston and then Greenville.

•  Most clean energy firms in the state, 73.8 percent, reported gross annual revenue of less than $1 million. Of those with annual revenues greater than $1 million, 42.4 percent said at least half their revenue was generated by clean energy activities – a 6 percent increase over 2011.

•  Most of the clean energy firms in the state said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to add clean energy over the next 12 months.

“This survey is unique,” said Joey Von Nessen, USC research economist. “This gets information you’re not going to be able to find anywhere else.”

The report, which can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1bqRjam, gives insight into the self-identified clean energy companies’ practices and priorities, concerns and experiences, Von Nessen said.

“These firms that are growing are largely producing for South Carolina – a South Carolina customer base and a South Carolina client base,” Von Nessen said. “So, they’re growing and they’re serving the local needs of South Carolina – very positive.”

BY THE NUMBERS

$813 million - Total gross annual revenue generated by S.C. clean energy companies in 2012, a 12 percent increase over 2011

17,719 - Number of workers in clean energy in the state in 2013

34 - Number of S.C. counties that have clean energy businesses – out of 46 total

SOURCE: South Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance

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