As the number of weeks spent social-distancing nears double digits, many states and the federal government are looking to reopen for business. While reopening timelines, policies and plans may vary there remains at least one common goal: to protect and strengthen the economy as much as possible. The good news? There’s one sector that’s already powering the economy and can continue to strengthen it as we begin to find our way back to normal. So without further ado, in this week’s installment of our seven-part #CombatingCoronavirus series we’re highlighting the NC Sustainable Energy Association and the role renewable energy can play now and post-pandemic.

Powering Through the Pandemic

The NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) is a not-for-profit trade organization focused on advancing clean energy jobs, strong economic opportunities and affordable energy in North Carolina. Its member organizations include a mix of renewable energy and related supply chain companies, from commercial-scale solar developers to construction companies to everything in between. As North Carolina and the country begin to reopen, NCSEA, its member companies and the clean energy sector as a whole can play a crucial role in boosting the economy and saving costs to help all of us return to life as we knew it.

Throughout the pandemic renewable sources have topped coal in terms of energy produced and supplied to the grid, powering us sustainably– and more cost-effectively– while we work from home, attempt to homeschool and more. Whether this trend will inspire an increased shift toward renewable energy remains to be seen; however, such a shift could significantly benefit North Carolina, especially as the state continues along its path toward reopening.

One of the most daunting unknowns that North Carolina faces as it emerges from the coronavirus crisis is the status of state revenue collections. A report released by the state controller already paints a grim picture as revenue collected in April was one-third less than what was collected at the same time last year. And the state budget will not be the only one to feel a revenue pinch– some counties are expecting budget cuts to the tune of 10 to 14 percent and cities are budgeting blind without usual revenue projections. As we brace for these budget shortfalls and work to combat the losses, clean energy can help. Renewable energy projects are often the biggest tax payers in rural counties, contributing tens of millions of dollars in revenue that can be reinvested in local infrastructure, schools and essential services. Project development also provides a boost to local businesses during the construction period, which is something that all Main Street shops will be looking for as the economy begins to get back on its feet. And despite the uncertainty presented by the ongoing pandemic, sustainable energy projects continue to move forward in North Carolina, indicating both confidence in the industry as well as the state.

As the economy begins to recover, one crucial part of that process will be driving down the historic unemployment numbers that have rapidly risen across the country. In North Carolina alone over 1.11 million residents have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March. Across the country numbers are similarly staggering as the unemployment rate jumped to a record high of 14.7 percent— the worst since the Great Depression. When it comes to getting America back to work, clean energy projects can help yet again. These investments create jobs: some in the short-term for construction and some long-term for continued project management and site maintenance. Not to mention the ripple effect sustainable energy development spurs through supply chain companies, transportation and more. The development of clean energy projects ultimately means a boost in a variety of other industries, creating a need for jobs locally as well as within tangential companies far and wide.

Like nearly every industry right now, sustainable energy and the larger “cleantech” sector as a whole face uncertainty; however, they’re extremely necessary for us to realize a strong and sustainable economic recovery. Not only does clean energy represent investment in communities and the people who live there, but it also provides sustainable, more affordable power to those people and their businesses. Energy is an essential business that powers the rest of us to carry on with our own essential businesses. Clean energy takes that a step further by not only powering our daily lives, but also by powering our economy and reinvesting in our communities.