In North Carolina, congregations embrace clean energy

By Bob Keefe

Businesses and home owners aren’t the only ones creating jobs and driving economic growth with clean energy.

In North Carolina and in other parts of the country, clean energy works for a growing number of religious organizations.

From synagogues in Greensboro to Baptist churches in the heart of Charlotte, congregations are installing solar panels next to steeples; making money-saving energy efficiency upgrades and spreading the gospel of both the economic and environmental benefits of clean energy.

“Faith communites are really coming together as a leading voice for why we need to think about transferring our energy production from dirty sources to clean, renewable sources,” said Susannah Tuttle, director of North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light.

Tuttle’s group, through the help of volunteers, offers free energy audits to congregations that can help them reduce operating costs significantly with simple steps such as upgrading lighting, adding insulation and improving energy management. NCIPL also serves as a clearinginghouse for religious groups that want to get their power from clean energy sources like solar and wind.

“We’re excited about  the idea that we’re going to have basically free power that can be used by the church,” said Rev. Randy Orwig of Elon Community Church, which worked with NCIPL to install solar panels on its rooftop.

North Carolina is already a national leader in clean energy, thanks in large part to the state’s landmark clean energy standards, and despite attempts by the state legislature to roll back those standards, which require power companies to get at least 12.5 percent of their power from clean, renewable energy by 2021.

In 2012, North Carolina was the No. 5 state in the country for solar installations, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association.

And that growth in clean energy is creating jobs.

According to E2′s 2012 clean energy jobs report, more than 10,800 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were created in North Carolina – making the state No. 2 in the country, behind only California.

In a state hard-hit by the Great Recession, that kind of job creation is something to say amen about.