Commentary

Environmental advocate: Duke Energy needs to change its two-faced approach to solar power

Solar powerThe following essay was written By Rachel Morales, Clean Energy Organizer at Environment North Carolina.

Don’t let North Carolina’s commitment to solar power fade
By Rachel Morales

Solar power has been an enormous success in North Carolina. During each of the last two years, North Carolina has ranked fourth in the nation in the amount of solar capacity added.

What’s more, that growth is no mistake or accident. In the last decade, our state leaders passed forward-thinking policies, like tax incentives to encourage individuals to buy solar and a “renewable energy portfolio” standard that requires a portion of North Carolina’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources.

Indeed, these and other policies have spurred a solar boom in the state. Solar businesses have popped up statewide and more and more families, businesses, and farms have decided to go solar. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) North Carolina now generates 1,088 megawatts of solar energy each year, enough to power 116,000 homes. A new poll by the ClearPath Foundation found that 84 percent of registered voters “support action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy,” including 72 percent of Republican voters.

At a glance, Duke Energy is also a proponent of solar energy. The energy giant has installed more than 600 megawatts of solar capacity to date and is touting plans to bring more online in 2016.

Unfortunately, behind the scenes, the company has taken action to discourage rooftop solar in the state. Read more

Commentary

Conservative group exposes the Kochs’ war on sustainable energy

© Greenpeace, David Sorcher, 2012

© Greenpeace, David Sorcher, 2012

There’s a fabulous op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by a fellow named David Jenkins of the Virginia-based group, Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship. In it, Jenkins exposes the outrageous and dishonest war on renewable/sustainable energy being waged by fossil fuel front groups like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity and their allies in the Pope empire here in North Carolina:

“We have all heard about President Obama’s ‘war on coal,’ but the challenges facing the coal industry are much more complex than the ‘war’ label would imply.

There is a war on energy, but the target is not coal, it is wind and solar energy.

The attack dogs in this war are funded by Koch Industries and include Americans for Prosperity, American Energy Alliance and the American Legislative Exchange Council. They frame their attacks as a defense of the free market and fiscal conservatism. Yet even a cursory examination of their positions reveals they’re not defending the free market but attempting to protect the fossil fuel industry from competition.”

Jenkins goes on to explain that all energy sources are subsidized by government and that the subsidies provided to fossil fuels greatly surpass those provided to renewables. (Indeed, as was explained in this post the other day, the subsidies provided to fossil fuels once one factors in the environmental costs are truly staggering — as much as 6.5% of GDP!)

Here’s Jenkins:

“These groups seek to bolster certain federal subsidies by attacking others, rig the market in the name of preserving it, pick winners and losers under the pretense of opposing such things, stifle freedom while pretending to promote it and encourage waste and inefficiency. All of this while pretending to support free market principles.

This special interest hijacking of the conservative label comes at the expense of real conservative values – and our nation’s long-term energy security. Only courageous and principled conservatives can effectively defend conservatism from such abuse.”

The bottom line: Call it what you want — conservative or liberal — but the simple truth that fair and true competition can help save the planet when it comes to energy is undeniable.

Commentary

Video explains how NC promotes renewable energy and why doing so makes so much sense

We know this stuff is complicated, but if you’d really like to understand what North Carolina is doing to promote solar power (and other renewables) and why it is good for our economy, jobs, competition, freedom, capitalism, electric bills and, incidentally, the future of the planet, watch this excellent presentation at last week’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation by Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. (Click to the 5:30 mark to skip the introduction).

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Commentary

Hugh McColl: Another prominent voice for solar

Solar powerThe momentum to reject the General Assembly’s misguided effort to torpedo North Carolina’s solar power boom continues to build. Today’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer features the latest broadside against the sabotage effort — an op-ed by, of all people, former Bank of America Hugh McColl.

As McColl rightfully point out in “How solar could make NC the next silicon valley”:

“Critics of solar do not understand that it is here to stay. In the last decade, business and innovation have cut the cost of solar power by more than half. Solar is now close to competing with conventional sources of energy such as natural gas, coal and nuclear. Solar in North Carolina costs our utilities 6 to 7 cents a kilowatt-hour and continues to fall. Compare that with the average retail price of about 11 cents a kilowatt-hour.

New growth industries drive job creation and economic diversification. North Carolina’s renewable energy policies and tax credits have created more than 23,000 jobs and $3 billion investment. Our universities are helping to drive innovation in solar, and the industry improves North Carolina’s brand and ability to compete for talent globally. In fact, one of our homegrown solar companies, Strata Solar, was recently named as one of the top 10 solar companies in the world.

Solar is here to stay. The question is, will it stay in North Carolina? Our state has the opportunity to compete and be a leader in this 21st century industry. All our legislature has to do is maintain our renewable energy policies and phase down the tax credit responsibly rather than ending it abruptly this year.”

Learn more about this debate and how you might participate in it by attending this Thursday’s N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon: “Will lawmakers bust North Carolina’s clean energy boom?” The event will feature Ivan Urlaub of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and other voices from the state environmental community. Here are the details:

Read more

Commentary

The Right’s gigantic lie about clean energy

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

Koch brother-funded groups like Americans for Prosperity have launched an all out assault in recent days against modest, common sense North Carolina public policies that encourage the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. They’ve tried just about every prevaricating message they can think of, but the one they seem to have settled on of late is the absurd claim that we are somehow unfairly disadvantaging fossil fuels and driving up the costs to consumers by promoting green energy.

This is simply and plainly false.

The truth is that Americans already subsidize the fossil fuel monster to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars each year. This is from the May 20 edition of The Weekly Briefing:

“As a new and powerful report from the International Monetary Fund demonstrates convincingly, the true cost of fossil fuels to society is vastly higher when one figures in the massive public subsidies that are expended in the form of environmental damage, health impacts and the public costs of dealing with both. Read more