The Charlotte Regionís Energy Cluster
The Charlotte region’s energy cluster is an economic force that is transforming the very landscape of the industry.
From alternative energy startups and engineering firms to multinationals working on nuclear energy projects, the cluster represents a large cross-section of the local economy. Anchored by industry titans Duke Energy, Siemens, CB&I and Piedmont Natural Gas, the industry’s success is built on a foundation of capabilities: an ample and able workforce, reliable and affordable energy resources, inventiveness and a diversified supplier network.
Charlotte has the “who’s who” of energy. More than 1,800 energy companies and 34,000 employees call Charlotte home. And the city’s reputation as a diverse energy hub is rapidly rising. View a map of power-related companies here.
Charlotte’s Energy Sector
With more than 34,000 employees, the power cluster represents 3 percent of Charlotte’s regional economy, and it’s growing quickly. From 2012 to 2014, the cluster has grown 10 percent, adding just over 3,000 jobs and outpacing both state and national job growth.
Charlotte’s energy industry can be broken out into three sectors: services and construction, manufacturing, and generation and distribution. By far, services and construction employ the majority of energy cluster professionals, followed by manufacturing and energy generation and distribution.
It is a simple fact: Location matters. Charlotte’s energy cluster is flourishing because of the region’s high level of specialization and focus on fostering synergy and collaboration. The relative concentration of an industry can be measured using a location quotient (LQ) analysis. If the LQ value is above 1, the region has a greater concentration of that sector than the nation. Conversely, if the LQ is below 1, the region has a lower concentration of that sector than the nation. Charlotte’s energy cluster has an LQ of 1.10, which means that the region has 10 percent more energy jobs per capita than the nation.
Charlotte’s energy cluster is a force to be reckoned with for numerous reasons, all unique to the region. Regional competitiveness is measured using shift share analysis, which explains how much job growth in an industry is due to some unique competitive advantage that the region possesses.
Charlotte is outpacing the nation in the creation of energy jobs when accounting for national growth. In fact, 72 percent of growth in the energy cluster may be attributed to Charlotte’s business climate, incentive programs or the quality of the labor force – unique competitive advantages that set the region apart from the country.
The most competitive industries in Charlotte’s energy industry are power line construction, nuclear power generation and turbine generator manufacturing. Wages in Charlotte’s cluster are competitive as well: The industry’s average salary of $64,538 is substantially lower than the rest of North Carolina and the United States.
Well over half — 67 percent — of the region’s energy cluster workers are employed in the services and construction sector, which includes engineering, electrical contracting and power structure construction. Familiar names such as AREVA, CB&I, The Babcock and Wilcox Company and URS Corporation are among the impressive companies with a prominent presence in Charlotte. Over the past two years, this sector has grown faster than both manufacturing and power generation and distribution – accounting for 90 percent of total energy industry job growth.
In terms of relative concentration of jobs, Charlotte has 51 percent more jobs than the national average in power line and related construction (LQ=1.51). Charlotte also has a high relative concentration of electrical and related equipment wholesalers and electrical contractors.
||Top 15 Largest Energy Employers in the Region
||Duke Energy (HQ)
||ATI Allvac (HQ)
||Celgard, LLC (HQ)
||Resolute Forest Products
||Piedmont Natural Gas (HQ)
||AREVA US (HQ)
||Doosan Infracore Portable Power Inc.
||Baldor Electric Co.
||PPG Industries, Inc.
||SPX Corporation (HQ)
||PSNC Energy (HQ)
||Source: Charlotte Chamber
AREVA is a world leader in design and construction of nuclear power plants, plant modernization, maintenance and repair services, and nuclear fuel manufacturing. Headquartered in Paris, France, AREVA employs 45,000 globally, with more than 5,000 U.S. employees. Of those, approximately 650 are employed at the company’s North American headquarters in Charlotte’s University Research Park.
In 2013, AREVA affirmed its commitment to the community by relocating its North American headquarters to Charlotte, citing many of the area’s unique competitive advantages. “North Carolina is a great place to do business because of its quality of life, extensive business infrastructure, investments in workforce development and commitment to forming partnerships with industry,” said Michael W. Rencheck, CEO of AREVA Inc.
AREVA’s Charlotte-based employees are engaged in a variety of engineering and project management activities that support the safety, reliability and effectiveness of the existing fleet of nuclear power plants; the deployment of the next generation of new nuclear power plants worldwide; and waste cleanup efforts for the Department of Energy.
CB&I is the most complete energy infrastructure-focused company in the world, providing engineering, construction, technology, fabrication, maintenance and environmental services. With 50,000 employees around the world, CB&I is a power sector industry leader. In 2013, CB&I acquired The Shaw Group, which opened its Charlotte office in 2004 and named the city as the headquarters of its Power Group in 2007.
Today, CB&I employs nearly 1,000 people in the Queen City. In the energy sector, the company focuses on upstream oil and gas, downstream oil and gas, liquefied natural gas and the power market, including fossil fuel electric generation and nuclear, hydroelectric and wind power.
The Babcock & Wilcox Company
The Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W) is a leader in clean energy technology and services, primarily for the nuclear, fossil and renewable power markets, as well as a premier advanced technology and mission-critical defense contractor. A Fortune 1000 company with its headquarters in Charlotte, B&W has locations worldwide and employs approximately 12,000 people, in addition to 10,400 joint venture employees.
B&W is leading the development of new and innovative power generation options and environmental control solutions. From zero-emissions nuclear power and near zero-emissions carbon capture technology to biomass, waste to energy and cutting-edge solar thermal, the company has a broad portfolio of clean and efficient energy technologies. Charlotte is also the headquarters for Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Energy, Inc. and Generation mPower LLC.
URS Corporation’s Nuclear Center is based in Fort Mill, South Carolina, just south of Charlotte, and employs around 300 people. The multinational company provides program management, planning, design, engineering and procurement services; systems engineering and technical assistance; construction and construction management; operations and maintenance; and decommissioning and closure services.
URS Corporation has served the industry since the initial commercialization of nuclear technology in the 1960s. Since then, the company has provided planning, engineering or construction services for essentially every nuclear power plant operating in the United States today, including environmental studies, siting and licensing services, and thousands of life-extension modifications and operations support.
Manufacturing continues to be a cornerstone of the Charlotte regional economy – Mecklenburg County is the largest manufacturing county in the state. And in the energy industry, manufacturing is the second largest sector. While manufacturing has seen little job growth in the region, similar to state and national trends, Charlotte has double the concentration of energy manufacturing jobs when compared to the United States (LQ=2.04). The highest concentrations are in turbine generator manufacturing, primary battery manufacturing and wiring device manufacturing. Companies in this sector, including Siemens, SPX, FMC Lithium, Celgard, LLC and ABB, are creating cutting-edge products used by energy cluster companies and their consumers.
Siemens, a longtime turbine manufacturing presence in Charlotte, made a significant announcement in 2010: It would relocate the manufacture of its 60-Hz large-scale gas turbines from Canada to Charlotte, adding 800 jobs. The move allowed the company to create a U.S. manufacturing hub to take advantage of synergies in transportation, workforce, supply base, research and development, and its current expandable site.
The Siemens complex boasts 1 million square feet of manufacturing and office space and employs around 1,500 people. It is the most modern gas turbine manufacturing facility in the world. A separate division, the company’s instrumentation and control group, relocated to Charlotte in 2010. The group performs all of Siemens’ I&C work for nuclear power plants in North America.
Siemens has a strong relationship with Central Piedmont Community College and its Apprenticeship Charlotte program, and is dedicated to developing Charlotte’s highly skilled workforce. In September 2014, Siemens announced a $32 million in-kind software grant to CPCC for its science, technology, engineering and math programs, in addition to the apprenticeship program.
Charlotte pride meets global power at the headquarters of SPX, a Fortune 1000 multi-industry manufacturer. With nearly $5 billion in annual revenues and 14,000 employees in more than 35 countries, SPX serves a number of markets, including the global power and energy markets, with innovative technologies and products including cooling towers, heat exchangers and a broad spectrum of processing equipment.
SPX’s products, technologies and solutions support nearly all sources of power generation, and the company supplies components and pollution control systems critical to building new, more efficient power plants and renovating older ones.
SPX recently announced a significant expansion of its corporate headquarters in the Ballantyne area of Charlotte. As Chris Kearney, SPX chairman, president and CEO, noted, “Charlotte is rapidly emerging as a global energy capital, and we are excited about being a part of that. As a trusted partner to power producers around the world, we are deeply committed to creating a safe, reliable, efficient and abundant energy future for everyone.”
FMC Lithium, headquartered in Charlotte, is a leading producer of lithium-based products and is recognized as a technology leader in lithium precursors for batteries and specialty organolithium chemicals for polymerization and chemical synthesis. A global company, FMC Lithium employs more than 5,500 people worldwide. The company’s lithium plant in Bessemer City, Gaston County, recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Lithium-ion batteries are used to power everything from cell phones and computer tablets to power tools and electric vehicles. FMC developed Stabilized Lithium Metal Powder (SLMP®), which is a safe-to-handle powdered lithium metal that increases the energy density and life of lithium-ion batteries.
Celgard, a wholly owned subsidiary of Polypore International, Inc., is a lithium battery component manufacturer headquartered in south Charlotte. Celgard makes a microporous film — known as a battery separator — used in batteries for portable electronics devices, such as laptop computers and mobile phones, and in emerging applications such as reserve power, grid management systems and electric drive vehicles.
This pioneer in technology has been manufacturing products for the energy sector in Charlotte for more than 20 years. And in 2010, the company announced a major expansion in Charlotte and in Concord, North Carolina, totaling more than $300 million in capital investment. Celgard cited many factors in its decision to expand in Charlotte and build new in Concord, including opportunities for synergies with other key players in the energy sector, access to regional academic and government research facilities, and the availability of a quality workforce.
ABB is a premier power and automation technology company and the world’s largest provider of transmission and distribution solutions and equipment for the power grid and renewable energy sources. And in 2010, the company chose Huntersville and the Charlotte region for its new $90 million world-class, high-voltage transmission cable manufacturing facility.
“We selected the Charlotte area for our new high-voltage transmission cable factory because it offers a combination of top-notch engineering talent, training capabilities at local colleges, first-rate transportation and an attractive living environment,” said Enrique Santacana, now regional manager of ABB Inc. in South America. “We are also excited to be a part of the Charlotte market’s growing reputation as the nation’s new energy hub.”
ABB is also a leading proponent of grid modernization. The smart grid features a wide range of new technologies and applications that are transforming today’s power system into a grid that is largely automated with greater energy efficiency and reliability.
Generation and Distribution
Generation and distribution round out the Charlotte region’s diverse energy cluster. The sector includes companies engaged in fossil fuel, hydroelectric and nuclear power distribution, along with natural gas distribution. Of the 4,700 people employed in generation and distribution, the majority works in nuclear power distribution. In fact, nuclear power distribution is highly concentrated in the region – five times more concentrated than the national average (LQ=5.90). Duke Energy, the country’s largest electric power holding company, and Piedmont Natural Gas are two of the major players in the sector that provide critical services to a vast region.
Duke Energy, No. 123 on the Fortune 500, is headquartered in Charlotte. Charlotte’s energy tradition began more than 100 years ago when Duke Energy harnessed the Catawba River to power textile mills. Today the company serves 7.2 million electric customers in the Carolinas, the Midwest and Florida, and 500,000 gas customers in Ohio and Kentucky — the largest electric power company in the U.S.
The company is a best-in-class energy provider. Its service availability is among the highest in the nation — 99.97 percent. Duke Energy Carolinas’ average industrial rate of 5.76 cents per kilowatt-hour is one of the lowest rates nationwide.
Duke Energy understands that there is a different kind of challenge when planning for a future focused on energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. The company’s analytics division helps customers and the company reduce costs through grid-modernization programs. And the Duke Energy Operations Center monitors the grid and its generation, carefully balancing production and energy use for the lowest possible cost of reliable electricity.
Innovation extends to economic development, too. Duke Energy encourages economic growth in the region. “The Carolinas offer businesses a low-cost environment, an international major-hub airport, extensive interstate highway network and many other attributes that give the region a substantial competitive advantage,” said Lynn Good, president and CEO of Duke Energy.
For corporate relocation and expansion prospects, the company sponsors a program to evaluate and improve industrial sites in the counties it serves in the Carolinas. The Site Readiness Program helps identify, assess, improve and increase awareness of industrial sites in the Duke Energy region. This program can increase the inventory of ready sites for new members of Charlotte’s regional business community.
Piedmont Natural Gas
With its headquarters located in Charlotte, Piedmont Natural Gas employs approximately 1,800 people and provides natural gas to more than 1 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
As part of its commitment to empower individuals and organizations to make responsible energy decisions, Piedmont Natural Gas promotes the direct use of natural gas for homes, businesses and industries as the most efficient use of this valuable natural resource. The use of natural gas for power generation, especially when it replaces high-emitting coal resources, can be a key strategy in reducing emissions.
This commitment to efficient energy usage includes pioneering the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a superior alternative fuel for transportation. Piedmont is actively marketing CNG, making it more widely available across its service areas with a focus on return-to-base fleets, both large and small.
As the first step in building a network of fueling stations that anyone can use, Piedmont currently has 10 public fueling stations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Some of the Charlotte region’s largest energy cluster companies are headquartered abroad, including Siemens, AREVA and ABB. Many other foreign firms also make up part of the industry.
Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems (MNES)
Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems (MNES), a U.S. subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI), located its main MNES engineering center in Charlotte in 2011. The company now employs more than 100 people in Charlotte who work with partners, contractors and customers in the areas of project management, engineering and quality assurance.
Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation
Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation announced in 2009 its newly formed national Project Management and Engineering Center in Charlotte. The group functions as a base for Toshiba’s nuclear power business in the U.S. In 2013, Toshiba announced a joint marketing organization for operating nuclear power plants in North America with Westinghouse Electric Company, a leading supplier of innovative nuclear technology with a regional office in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Jetion Solar (US) Corp.
Jetion Solar (US) Corp. is a subsidiary of Jetion Solar China Ltd., a multinational company with wholly owned subsidiaries in Liechtenstein, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg. After more than two years of extensive research, the company chose Charlotte for its North American headquarters because of its desirable geographic location, close access to the ports of Charleston and Savannah and Charlotte’s air hub status.
“With its heavy influx of migration from other cities to Charlotte, the city provides for a vast pool of versatile workforce from all backgrounds and work experiences,” said Francis Tsai, Jetion’s office manager. Jetion Solar is a major manufacturer of solar cells and modules. The Charlotte location is the company’s North American sales and service center.
SAERTEX was founded in Germany and today is a major world supplier of stitch-bonded fabrics for the composite market. SAERTEX USA was established in 2001 and is the second largest manufacturing facility — at 130,000 square feet — in the SAERTEX group. The company has 180 employees at its facility in Huntersville, just north of Charlotte.
SAERTEX USA makes strong, ultra-light materials that advance alternative energy technologies, supplying high-quality fabrics to most major rotor blade manufacturers in the wind energy industry. The company’s customers also include ship builders, ski producers, and automotive and aerospace industries.
World-Class Training And Programs
The Charlotte region is at the forefront of providing a pipeline of highly trained and educated energy professionals. The region boasts 19 institutions offering 29 programs to fill energy-related occupations. More importantly, the corporate community works in partnership with the region’s universities and community colleges, which offer nationally and internationally recognized programs to meet the industry’s needs.
The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI) conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. An independent, nonprofit organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, health, safety and the environment. EPRI also provides technology and economic analyses to drive long-range research and development planning, and supports research in emerging technologies.
In 1980, EPRI opened the world’s first facility for researching and demonstrating technologies for the nondestructive evaluation of power plant components in Charlotte. In the years since, EPRI has expanded its University Research Park campus to include laboratories focusing on nuclear and fossil generation, renewable energy and power delivery.
With 360,000 square feet of laboratory, office and conference space on 45 acres, EPRI’s Charlotte campus equips the institute to continue to expand its research, development and demonstration programs and to serve its member companies, which represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States and whose participation extends to 40 countries.
Central Piedmont Community College
Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) serves more than 70,000 students annually at six campuses in Mecklenburg County. It is industry’s ‘go-to’ place for workforce development. The energy sector is a key focus of CPCC.
Growing demand for energy across established power generation, nontraditional sources of power and sustainable industries drives an increasing demand for craft-level industry workers. To fill this need, CPCC partners with industry leaders to develop specialized programs to fit residents with the knowledge and skills to work within the energy sector.
Through partnerships with energy firms, specialized curriculum, apprenticeships and programs that benefit both existing and emerging workers, CPCC responds to the ever-changing workforce development needs of the community.
In 2013, CPCC launched The Center for Energy Training to help ensure workforce development needs are met in the Charlotte region’s energy cluster. The center surveyed energy companies in 2014 to determine skilled trades that will be most in-demand in the next five years to help inform CPCC’s curriculum.
Over the past few years, CPCC’s Apprenticeship Charlotte program has received national recognition for its partnerships with Blum, Siemens and other Charlotte companies. In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama affirmed, “Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, and Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. … These reforms will help people get jobs that are open today. But to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier.”
Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC)
The Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is a collaborative industry/education effort to produce a high-quality energy engineering workforce and to become a partner in technology research for the global energy industry. This cross-discipline initiative in the William States Lee College of Engineering includes mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, civil and environmental engineering and engineering technology.
Students are hands-on in their academic careers and with prospective employers. The College of Engineering’s Senior Design Program brings together students, faculty members and industry experts to tackle real-world engineering projects. These projects provide valuable R&D opportunities and build important ties between the university, students and employers.
EPIC has defined key research thrusts, which include grid management; advanced sensing; manufacturing issues associated with large power generation equipment; renewable energy generation, including photovoltaics, wind, geothermal and biofuels; and environmental improvements on fossil generation. Educational thrusts emphasize the application of engineering and business skills in infrastructure, power generation and distribution, certifications and environmental sustainability.
The 200,000-square-foot EPIC building comprises labs, offices and classrooms, with a 4,000-square-foot clean room, a 3,500-square-foot material growth lab and a high-bay research area. Industry leaders Duke Energy and Siemens made early, multimillion dollar commitments to EPIC’s future.
Bottom line: The Charlotte region’s energy cluster is vibrant, competitive and an economic driver. The 34,000 people working in Charlotte’s energy cluster support an additional 39,600 jobs — so each job in the energy cluster creates an additional 1.2 jobs in the region. And the cluster has a direct economic impact of $12.1 billion, which supports an additional $5.6 billion in regional economic activity. Combined, these economic impacts represent 14 percent of the region’s economic activity.
And the reach of the Charlotte region’s energy cluster doesn’t stop in the region — statewide, the cluster supports 2,200 additional jobs that amount to nearly $500 million in economic activity.
As a key component of the local and state economy, Charlotte’s energy cluster is a powerful part of the region’s success, both now and in the many years to come.
To download a listing of more than 200 Charlotte-area energy cluster companies that the chamber has identified, click here.
Download the detailed impact study.