North Carolina made the top 10 list of states using solar energy in 2014.
The Tar Heel state ranked fourth nationally for total solar electric capacity and ninth per capita, according to a new report by the Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center.
State House lawmakers used the report Thursday as a launch pad to talk about the potential freeze to North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and the hangup in the budget over extending renewable energy tax credits.
Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, said clean energy is an “economic success story” for the state.
“It’s not time to cut it off,” she said.
Nearly 23,000 North Carolinians are employed in the clean energy industry, Harrison added.
“These jobs, businesses, investments in new revenues are at stake right now as the House and the Senate debate budget provisions,” she said.
Charles Jeter, a Mecklenburg Republican, addressed the cost of tax credits by comparing it to what the nation spends protecting its foreign oil interests.
“We need to look at energy policy in this state at a total level. No one is suggesting on either side that these tax credits should extend forever,” Jeter said.
He said the state must come up with an “all-encompassing model” for renewable energy.
“I’m not suggesting there is not a cost, but the benefit is greater than the cost,” Jeter said.
Michael Wray, a Gaston Democrat, said renewable energy projects are bringing much needed jobs and tax revenue to his area in the northeastern part of the state.
“We must keep existing clean energy policies in place, otherwise, our rural communities will suffer even more,” Wray said.
Solar farms provide an influx of tax revenue to the communities in rural areas that aren’t seeing a lot of other development, according to Carson Harkrader, director of project development for Carolina Solar Energy in Durham.