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Fla. 'advanced energy' labor market rivals education, tops real estate

A new report on theFlorida labor market shows the "advanced energy" field employs asmany workers as those working in education, and more than traditional sectors likereal estate and agriculture.

The report,released July 14 by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute, or AEE Institute, andprepared by labor market research firm BW Research Partnership, coincides with aballot measure up for vote Aug. 30 that couldexpand a key tax break for solar generation projects. If approved by voters andimplemented by the state legislature, the theamendment would extend to commercial properties a tax exemption currentlyenjoyed by residential properties for the assessed value of solar or other renewablepower devices. The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes,is also supported by solar advocates and environmental groups.

The findingsin the report could help bolster the image of the renewable industry as a growthsegment of the Florida economy, as supporters continue to push for more favorablepolicies toward renewable generation in the "Sunshine State." AEE Institutereported that Florida employed 140,282 advanced energy workers in 2015. That numberis roughly on par with those working for schools, colleges and training institutions.It's higher than the approximately 136,000 employed in the real estate industryand about twice as many as those Florida employed in the agriculture, forestry andfishing industries. AEE Institute defines "advanced energy" as includingtechnologies like demand response, renewable power generation, alternative fueltransportation, energy efficiency, data analytics and nuclear power plants.

Thereare an estimated 25,528 employers working in advanced energy business in the stateand companies surveyed plan to add more than 5,000 new jobs by the end of 2016,adding roughly 4% to the 2015 job total, according to the report. This segment accountsfor 2% of total statewide employment in Florida, and solar accounts for roughlyhalf with 23,500 workers. The advanced grid segment employs 962 workers, accordingto AEE Institute, with nearly half working on electric vehicle charging infrastructure,about 39% in advanced storage and 10% working on smart grid technologies. The advancedtransportation segment employs nearly 8,000 workers, according to AEE Institute,with 38% working in the fuel cell vehicle industry, and growth happening in plug-inelectric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as well.