North Carolina is a state that receives more than a quarter of its energy from renewable sources; most of which comes from hydroelectric and solar sources. The solar industry in the state employs 23,000 people and accounts for an annual revenue of $4.8 billion according to Melanie Santiago-Mosier, Director of Government Affairs. This is largely due to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) enacted in 2007 which mandated goals for both investor-owned and municipal utilities to supply a certain percentage of retail electrical sales from renewable energy sources by 2021 with incremental goals along the way. The REPS has brought jobs, investments, and clean energy to the state of North Carolina; which is why it is surprising that House Bill 332 is aiming to cut the program’s progress half-way to its goal.
This May, H332 was passed through the NC House of Representatives. The bill, were it signed into law, would effectively freeze the REPS half-way to its goal. While this only impacts utilities companies directly, the indirect effects this bill would have on North Carolina’s solar industry would be crippling. Current solar farms in North Carolina have been operating under the pretense that their sales could be expected to increase over the next six years, as mandated by the REPS. Enactment of the bill would mean that many of the smaller farms (which operate on a slimmer margin) would likely be forced out of the market. Additionally, this bill would decrease external funding into the solar market for the state, which up until this point has been growing since the 2007 enactment of the REPS.
Supporters claim that the bill will stop forcing utilities companies, and in turn customers, to pay for high cost energy sources. It is true that renewable energy sources are still more expensive that traditional sources, but it seems out of place to cut off a program which has been bringing jobs into the state and investing in a cleaner future. The bill also comes at a time when natural gas has shown a promising future for the state as large unassessed possible deposits are starting to be investigated.
To review, House Bill 332 passed by the North Carolina House of Representatives aims to freeze the precedence set by the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard which mandated that a growing percentage of energy in the state be provided from clean energy leading up to the year 2021. The bill would especially impact smaller existing solar farms throughout the state and discourage investment in solar energy for the future for one of the major south-eastern renewable energy producing states. The bill is available for public viewing on the North Carolina General Assembly website.
- Tucker Collins