North and South Carolina’s energy sector and the assets that support it are strong contributors to the region’s economy that could benefit from greater stakeholder collaboration and a shared vision for future innovation, according to the results of a new survey published today by the North Carolina Department of Commerce and E4 Carolinas, a trade association for energy companies and organizations.
The report, Carolinas’ Energy Economy Survey: Findings & Recommendations, publishes results from a survey of professionals in energy and energy-related companies and organizations across the Carolinas. Almost a third of respondents worked in energy-related businesses, and respondents included people working for utilities, energy-related nonprofits, educational institutions and governments.
“Reliable and affordable energy always appears on the list of things companies seek from a business location,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “North Carolina has always scored well on this requirement, so we must all work together to keep our state’s energy economy strong.”
The survey confirmed an overwhelming consensus that research centers, utilities, universities, community colleges, and energy efficiency firms are considered part of the energy economy, along with energy companies themselves. These resources also serve as vital assets for innovation in the Carolinas’ energy economy.
“This report is clear – opportunity is wide open for innovation between public and private partners, and the appetite for integrating advanced energy with innovation assets is huge in our state,” said Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael S. Regan. “To continue to be an energy leader, we need to prioritize investment in the energy sector, from technology to training, to meet our state’s future demand in a way that positively impacts the health and prosperity of all North Carolinians.”
Survey responses were more mixed for including governments, non-profits, and firms delivering legal, accounting, communications and other professional services when defining the energy economy and its innovation assets.
“It’s clear the energy economy and its innovation assets are vital for overall economic development, but the survey found little consensus of how best to promote and leverage these assets,” stated Dr. John Hardin, Executive Director of the Office of Science, Technology & Innovation, a unit of the Department of Commerce. “The difference in the findings between their importance and their promotion was just over a ratio of two to one, suggesting an opportunity to better tell our story and leverage these assets.”
“The results also revealed a bit of a disconnect between private sector and government and nonprofit professionals regarding the classifications,” said David Doctor, Chief Executive Officer of E4 Carolinas. He added, “As the home to the largest energy economy in the eastern United States, it is interesting that perceptions were so different between professionals in different sectors, which indicates a need for increased collaboration and communications among stakeholders in these sectors.”
Respondents also suggested that the Carolinas’ energy innovation assets were currently leaders in the South, and have the potential to be or remain the leader. However, when compared to energy economies of the national market, just over half of respondents ranked the Carolinas’ energy innovation assets as just contributors, not leaders. Respondents do agree the region’s assets have the potential to become the energy leaders of the nation.
The report released today is a product of the Southeast’s Energy Innovation Collaborative, a joint venture between E4 Carolinas and the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Office of Science, Technology & Innovation, and other energy organizations.
The Collaborative will soon launch several activities to benefit the region’s energy economy, including convening a collaborative working group of stakeholders, launching an energy directory, and developing policy recommendations for Governor Roy Cooper and the North Carolina General Assembly.