North Carolina sees the benefit of EVs and clean energy jobs

Many US states have adopted a pro-sustainability credo, including North Carolina, which has recently put numbers behind its efforts and sees a strong boost to its economy and jobs growth from clean energy and energy efficiency businesses, including the move to electric vehicles.

In the past 12 months, the state has seen a 47% increase in electric vehicle registrations. This boost followed plans by Toyota, VinFast and Wolfspeed to invest many billions in manufacturing related to EVs. Vinfast of Vietnam will bring its first US-based EV manufacturing facility to Chatham County,  while Toyota’s project is devoted to EV battery manufacturing. The two projects anticipate nearly 10,000 new jobs.

Those big manufacturing plans preceded passage of last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, which has recently come under fire as a waste of taxpayer dollars. The IRA includes a $7,500 tax rebate for the purchase of a qualifying EV, which state officials have tied to North Carlina’s greater interest in purchasing EVs.

Since the passage of the IRA, the state also sees a boost in components companies locating in states near North Carolina wishing to take advantage of proximity to manufacturing.  Such investments “really demonstrate the value proposition for clean energy jobs,” said Jennifer Mundt, assistant secretary of Clean Energy Economic Development in the state’s Department of Commerce.  She spoke in an interview with Fierce Electronics.

The state currently boasts 450,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector, and has promoted clean energy economic development partly through a comprehensive training program at its 58 community colleges. Every North Carolina resident lives within 30 minutes’ drive of a community college. “We offer incentives and specialized training, customized training,” Mundt said. North Carolina pioneered customized programs at community colleges and “it is the envy of other states.”

A large population of military service personnel retire to the state and add to the jobs profile. “We very much like them to stay in North Carolina and remain,” she said. Part of the allure is mountains to the West and the ocean to the East, along with an attractive climate.

Asked her reaction to recent Capitol Hill threats to upend IRA, Mundt called the comments “blustery talk…When you look at the overall impact and bringing back opportunities to communities, Congress will be hard-pressed to undo it and put the genie back in the bottle.”

Mundt said the state has seen years of economic benefits from clean energy jobs initiatives.  A biennial report conducted by RTI International estimated the cumulative economic impact over 16 years to exceed $59 billion. Clean energy development supported nearly 304,000 cumulative job years between 2007 and 2033, the study found.

The report also found that some of the state’s poorest counties see the largest economic benefits from clean energy development. A group of seven such counties experienced more than $520 million in investment between 2007 and 2022.

Mundt noted that such investments become big property tax generators along with job producers. “Whether somebody doesn’t believe in climate change, that’s independent of whether we see the fruits of these investments,” she said.