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Advanced energy fields in Florida poised for growth

The number of advanced energy jobs is on the rise in Florida, and experts said the industry could add more than 5,000 new jobs by the end of the year.

A new report from the Advanced Energy Economy Institute found there were more than 140,000 advanced energy jobs in the state in 2015. The industry employs nearly twice as many people as the agriculture industry, and more people than the real estate industry.

According to the report, prepared for the AEE Institute by BW Research Partnership, employers expect to add more than 5,000 new jobs by the end of 2016, bringing the number of advanced energy jobs to more than 145,000.

“In Florida and around the country, advanced energy has become a significant market segment. That is paying off in jobs for Floridians,” said Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy, a national business association.

While energy efficiency jobs make up three-quarters of the state’s advanced energy workforce, 17 percent of the workforce are in fields dealing with advanced electricity generation. That field makes up the second-largest advanced energy job category in the state, with many jobs related to solar energy.

Solar jobs represent about half of those in the advanced electricity generation field. The report found about 10,600 workers are involved in solar energy.

The report’s findings come as Florida voters are being asked to consider a ballot initiative to support expanded growth in solar energy. A ballot initiative has been placed on the Aug. 30 ballot that, if passed, would extend property tax exemptions for renewable energy devices, including solar, on commercial and residential properties.

The ballot initiative was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, and Reps. Ray Rodrigues and Lori Berman, and cleared the Florida Legislature earlier this year.

The report also highlighted several other advanced energy jobs, including the advanced transportation segment. That segment employs nearly 8,000 workers, and is considered “quite large and varied.”

While the advanced fuel segment is small, the report found it was poised for growth. It currently employs about 1,600 workers, half of which work in corn ethanol.

According to the report, there are about 25,500 advanced energy companies doing business in Florida, the vast majority servicing Florida customers. The majority of employers are small businesses, with 81 percent of companies employing up to 24 permanent employees.

And who are those employees? The report found 73 percent of advanced industry workers are male, and 8 percent of the workers are veterans. One in five workers are over the age of 55.

The report concluded there was “great potential for continued economic growth and employment opportunity in the advanced energy industry in Florida.”

“It is not surprising that advanced energy jobs in Florida are growing,” said  Rep. Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican and the chairman of the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee. “We need to provide a strong business environment that helps to foster the growth of these companies — with the least government intrusion as possible. The message we need to send is that Florida is open for business.”

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