Why North Carolina is the New Center of Energy Efficiency

After finishing my doctoral degree from North Carolina State University (NCSU), I co-founded Cree in 1987 – now the leader in LED lighting, and a company at the forefront of driving LED lighting adoption. While energy efficiency was always at the heart of our technology, ironically, what we never envisioned was the tremendous possibilities of lighting. In the beginning, it was inconceivable that we would achieve an efficiency level and cost where LED lighting would be viable. But we never stopped innovating, and we never left the region that inspired us to start it all. Both are proving to be brilliant decisions.

With more than 2,000 employees locally, we’re proud to be part of Raleigh-Durham, an emerging national technology hub re-energizing the clean energy industry. In fact, the 2014 North Carolina Clean Energy Industry Census conducted by the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) reveals that clean energy industry employment has increased 25 percent annually since 2012, providing nearly 23,000 full-time equivalent jobs, outpacing the state’s other industries. Even before joining North Carolina’s workforce, students at NCSU are undertaking unconventional initiatives to revamp the way energy is already used. The Pizza Box Composting Project’s pilot program, for example, allows students to compost pizza boxes, pizza slices, napkins and paper plates that would otherwise be thrown in the trash. And we all know college students eat a lot of pizza.

Beyond the brightest minds and university students, North Carolina is taking a new approach to efficient thinking. Nearly 40 percent of North Carolina’s energy revenue is from the efficiency sector. North Carolina’s clean energy efforts aren’t centered solely in one area, either. The industry has hubs in every corner of the state, from Charlotte to the Outer Banks, and with more than 11,000 employees, it employs more people than solar, biomass and storage sectors combined. And with more than $4.8 billion in gross clean energy revenue, employees are making their mark. (Read More)