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Solar powerIt’s hard to imagine a better public investment when it comes to long-term societal well-being than solar energy. In a time of increasingly dire environmental news, solar has the potential to bring huge benefits to the health of the planet while, at the same time, freeing numerous countries from their heroin-like addiction to the oil of various theocracies and dictatorships. Even if solar energy required significant and permanent public subsidies to be economically viable, it would be more than worth the investment.

Here, however, is the cool part: Solar energy is an increasingly viable and competitive industry that will require less and less public stimulus as time goes on. As demand rises and costs of solar installations (both large and small scale) continue to fall, solar is fast becoming a genuine rival to the fossil fuel industry. It is, in short, a best-of-both-worlds scenario: a money-making capitalist enterprise that could help save the world.

Unfortunately,  the fossil fuel industry and its apologists are doing everything they can to stifle this progress. A classic case in point is taking place right now in North Carolina where lawmakers are looking to decimate a law that has helped prime the solar energy  pump and place the industry on the road to full economic viability. Contributor Jesse Grossman explains in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“HB 760 would reduce the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard from the existing 12.5 percent by 2020 goal to 6 percent. REPS has been critical to solar in North Carolina since it became law in 2007 and has fended off attacks with bipartisan support several times, most recently this April.

A REPS rollback would hamstring the market’s forward velocity and overall potential and is counter-intuitive considering solar’s statewide economic contributions and other states increasing their renewable energy targets. Read More

Commentary

The good people at the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters did a great job this morning of exposing the dishonesty in the latest attacks on renewable energy in North Carolina in recent weeks from the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. This is from this morning’s LCV Weekly Conservation Bulletin:

“Meanwhile on another key legislative front, one of the most well-heeled anti-environmental advocacy groups, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), has rolled out its latest dollars-and-nonsense attack on clean energy. AFP, which not coincidentally receives much funding from oil industry and other dirty energy sources, loves to attack clean, renewable energy development with factually questionable claims. In its latest assault on clean energy, AFP has launched a grab bag of dubious allegations attacking North Carolina’s imperiled Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS).

(For those who came in late, REPS requires electric utilities operating in North Carolina – especially Duke Energy – to produce or purchase a modest minimum percentage of its electricity from renewable sources like solar. REPS shares responsibility with the renewable energy development tax credits for the enormous boom in solar energy generation and related jobs in NC over the past eight years. Unfortunately, the House’s latest regulatory ‘reform’ bill, HB 760, was amended on the House floor to include anti-REPS changes. HB 760 passed the House and is now pending in the state Senate).

In working to gin up support for gutting REPS, AFP is flinging muddy claims about cost. Read More

Commentary

Spencer Nelson, a senior at UNC Chapel Hill and Chair of the Renewable Energy Committee in Student Government, recently authored the following essay highlighting some hopeful news on the renewable energy front:

Solar powerWin-win legislation would promote solar energy through market forces
By Spencer Nelson

Both business interests and environmental advocates are enthusiastic about two bills currently making their way through the North Carolina General Assembly that would help to sustain the growth of the state’s clean energy industry and provide more energy options to North Carolinians.

House Bill 245, “The Energy Freedom Act,” would allow the purchase of electricity from sources other than the local public utility, beginning the process of electricity deregulation in North Carolina. Currently, North Carolina is one of only five states that still have a complete ban on “third party sales” and it’s holding back the growth of renewables.

Third party sales simplify and reduce the price of renewable energy, especially solar. Residents or companies that want to buy solar energy enter a purchase agreement with a solar company like SolarCity. The solar company owns the panels and takes care of financing, while the consumer pays a monthly fee for energy from the solar panels. This bill allows cheap renewable energy without consumers worrying about taking out loans to buy panels or performing maintenance on their system, leaving the tricky aspects of solar energy to professionals.

In addition to helping North Carolina solar consumers, the Energy Freedom Act would have many positive effects on the economy. Read More

Commentary

In case you missed it, the good folks at NC WARN are out with a new issue brief that takes Duke Energy to task for its latest efforts to derail the widespread deployment of solar power. As the release that accompanied the brief notes:

“The Duke claim…is that, as more customers put solar panels on rooftops, other customers are left to pay more than “their share” for Duke Energy’s large, expensive power plants.

But only because Duke is a protected monopoly can it try to force captive customers to pay a higher price for a product – polluting power – that others choose to replace with solar. It is grossly unfair to force customers, instead of corporate stockholders, to pay for poor decisions to build giant, expensive power plants as the national market swings toward cheaper, safer energy generated right at the home and workplace….

Every new rooftop solar system helps all customers by reducing Duke Energy’s case to keep building expensive power plants we don’t need and continually raising rates. Solar power provides energy during times of high demand – the hottest hours of the day – eliminating Duke’s argument for building more plants.

If Duke Energy cared about low-income customers, Read More

Commentary

windfarmIn case you missed it, the good people at Environment North Carolina released another very encouraging report last week on the growth and potential of renewable energy — this time focusing on wind. The report is entitled “More Wind, Less Warming: How American Wind Energy’s Rapid Growth Can Help Solve Global Warming” and it’s worth a few minutes of your time — both to lift your spirits and to help prepare you for your next debate with the fossil fuels lover next door.

This is from the executive summary:

“Wind power is on the rise across America. The United States generates 24 times more electricity from wind power than we did in 2001, providing clean, fossil fuel-free energy that helps the nation do its part in the fight against global warming.

American wind power is already significantly reducing global warming pollution. In 2013 alone, wind power averted 132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions — as much as would be produced by 34 typical coal-fired power plants. But with the United States and the world needing to move toward a future of 100 percent clean energy in order to prevent the worst impacts of global warming, America must do much more.

If America were to take advantage of just a fraction of its wind energy potential to get 30 percent of its electricity from the wind by 2030, the nation could cut carbon emissions from power plants to 40 percent below 2005 levels. That much wind power would help states meet and exceed the carbon dioxide emission reductions called for by the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft Clean Power Plan, and help the nation meet its commitment to cut U.S. carbon pollution by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

Power plants are the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. By implementing policies that increase the production of wind energy, both on- and offshore, America can help put the nation and the world on a course to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.”

The bottom line: Wind energy can become a huge source of power in the U.S. and federal, state and local governments can make a big difference in pushing it forward in order to speed the nation’s transition from carbon to renewables. Let’s keep building the momentum.