The March 6 news article “Tax credits loom large in NC budget debate” left out some critical information about North Carolina’s amazing track record on investing in clean energy. An October study by the Pew Charitable Trusts concerning North Carolina’s solar industry found that total spending on state incentives 2009-2013 were $135 million and that that sum generated $2.67 billion in clean energy investments. That’s a 20 to 1 return on investment.
A recent report by RTI International and Scott Madden Consulting found that solar investments resulted in nearly 20,000 direct jobs 2007-2014 and a total of 44,500 for both direct and indirect jobs. The report calculated that over time, renewables are reducing – not increasing – utility rates. Some of the reduction comes from spending less money to buy fuel. North Carolina sends $1.76 billion per year – year after year – out of state to purchase coal. And that doesn’t count additional costs for emissions controls, reducing acid rain and managing coal ash.
Interestingly, the RTI study also found that rural counties benefited from clean energy jobs more than urban counties. The fact that North Carolina does not currently allow so-called no-money-down or “third party” solar may be a reason solar investment in urban areas is lagging behind rural counties. Investing in our rural communities is critical as we transition from North Carolina’s former mill-town economies to clean energy, clean tech and “smart” products like LED lights made by Durham’s CREE industries.
Let’s minimize the current up-and-down solar coaster by making a rational decision to give a leg up to an industry that’s growing nationally 20 times faster than the economy as a whole. North Carolina is no longer a “solar underdog,” ranking third nationally in solar capacity installed in 2013 and fourth in total U.S. installed solar capacity at the end of 2014.
Climate Voices commends North Carolina Reps. John Szoka (R- Cumberland) and Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) for sponsoring a bill to allow “third party” solar for all customer classes, including military, nonprofits and government institutions. We also appreciate Szoka’s understanding that the solar tax credit has paid for itself 20 times over. If North Carolina can pass Szoka’s Energy Freedom Act, it will help families that want to install solar but don’t have the $10,000 to $15,000 upfront to put down.
North Carolina still gets over a third of its power from coal. There’s a growing realization around the world that coal-fired power is doing more harm than good. A recent YouTube video about the shocking level of coal pollution in China with citizens in gas masks was viewed over 200 million times in a single week.
Our state’s natural beauty, sun and wind are helping us to build clean energy jobs and expertise we can be proud of, while also helping to clean our air and water. Let’s do right by our pocketbooks – and our grandkids. Support solar in North Carolina.
Nancy LaPlaca, J.D.
Regulatory consultant, Climate Voices and NC WARN