NC’s solar business threatened by new legislation

A solar installation in North CarolinaThat’s the word from the North Carolina Solar Energy Association, which says that House Bill 298 jeopardizes energy business stability. According to the solar advocacy organization, the new bill would unravel clean energy legislation enacted in the state in 2007 that has allowed its clean energy industry to take off and is saving ratepayers millions while generating nearly $2 billion in revenue and thousands of jobs in North Carolina.

The newly proposed legislation, introduced by a group of Republican Representatives: Mike Hager, Jeff Collins, Marilyn Avila, George Cleveland and Justin Burr, would allow for more monopoly control of utilities in the state while essentially gutting the legislation that created a renewable portfolio standard in North Carolina. The bill, titled "The Affordable and Reliable Energy Act" said it is: “An act to reduce the burden of high energy costs on the citizens of North Carolina by eliminating renewable energy portfolio standards; and to provide for cost recovery by public utilities for certain costs of compliance with renewable energy portfolio standards.”

NCSEA said it strongly opposes the legislation because it would negatively impact the state’s electricity customers. After all the state’s clean energy legislation in Senate Bill 3 in 2007, is already projected to save the state’s electric ratepayers $173 million by 2026. The advocacy organization cited a recent study by RTI International and La Capra Associates showing that the positive impacts of the previous legislation has led to more solar, like a 100 MW PV farm now slated for the state and lower prices, created over 21,000 job-years and generated $1.7 billion in economic benefit for the state since 2007. That legislation included incentives to make it easier to go solar.

NCSEA’s Director of Government Affairs Betsy McCorkle said the state already has a tightly controlled utility system where only utilities can sell power directly to consumers. “This monopoly control of our utilities limits innovation and market competition; however, the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard, the portion of Senate Bill 3 that House Bill 298 attempts to eliminate, was the first real opportunity for clean energy companies to compete with the utilities and offer consumers a choice,” she said. “All of this while creating thousands of jobs, expanding business opportunities, pumping billions of dollars into our economy, and driving down the cost of clean energy resources. This policy has been extremely successful and legislators should oppose House Bill 298, signaling to the investment and business communities that North Carolina will continue to lead the nation as an energy innovator, welcoming entrepreneurs and investors to this state.”

Much of North Carolina already is ahead of the curve in terms of complying with the 2007 law, McCorkle said. “Eliminating the REPS as this legislation seeks to do would be needlessly destructive to a job-creating industry and would result in government interference into a well-functioning market that continues to grow and attract investment,” she said.