North Carolina environmental advocates are having trouble listing all the bad new laws and money decisions crammed into the 400-plus page budget agreement. As the good people at the League of Conservation Voters reported in an update this afternoon, the budget agreement includes provisions:

  • Allowing the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit (REITC) to expire. For every $1 in tax credit allotted to our renewable energy industry, it has generated $1.54 in new state and local revenue. That means more money is coming into our coffers, creating jobs and drawing in a total economic impact of $4.7 billion. Allowing the REITC to expire will likely damage North Carolina’s ability to attract new businesses and investors, especially for our state’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties that have received more than $1.9 billion in direct investment thanks to REITC.
  • Earmarking $500,000 for shale gas exploration (aka “fracking”). The irony of allowing a “subsidy” for solar to expire but include half a million dollars in handouts to an industry that already has the funds and the competitive advantage shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Regardless, this is a terrible use of state revenue dollars.
  • Creating loopholes for repeat violators and reducing penalties for those who break state sediment and erosion control laws. While we were pleased to see the Sedimentation Control Commission remain intact, this overseeing body won’t be able to actually enforce any of the rules and protect us and our natural resources from pollution with these gaping holes.
  • Extending funding for the botched SolarBee project to the tune of $1.5 million and delaying the implementation of the Jordan Lake Rules for at least three more years. This simply allows the pollution load to grow and grow, making future clean up efforts even more difficult and costly.

The LCV list doesn’t include the decision to expand controversial terminal groins that will liteally change the shape of the state’s coastline or, undoubtedly, numerous other provisions that will only come to light days after the new budget is law.

In other words, the news from Jones Street is bad and getting worse.

House Speaker Tim Moore

House Speaker Tim Moore

Today’s most outrageous, “you can’t make this stuff up” development in the North Carolina public policy world has to be the apparent behind-closed-doors flip-flop whereby House budget negotiators agreed to end the state’s investment in solar energy tax credits.

The decision comes on the same day that analysts at the nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy group Environment North Carolina released yet another report highlighting the amazing success of the credits. This is from the press release that accompanied the report:

“North Carolina ranked 4th nationally for total solar electric capacity, and 9th per capita, according to a new report, Lighting the Way III: The Top States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2014 by Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center.

Lighting the Way III found that it was not North Carolina’s ‘long summer days’ that put the state on the map among the Top 5 leaders in the renewable energy sector. Like in many states, policies are what lay the groundwork for leadership in energy innovation and investments. North Carolina’s renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standard (REPS) law is what opened the door on solar, other renewable energy sources and energy efficiency programs beginning in 2008, along with the renewable energy investment tax credit (REITC) as a vital financing mechanism. These clean energy policies have allowed limited market competition in North Carolina’s highly-regulated, monopoly-controlled electricity market and the resulting economic benefits are now being felt by North Carolinians in every region of the state.”

The apparent decision — which would require the House to back down from its previous stance — also comes during the same legislative session in which House Speaker Tim Moore voiced strong support for preserving the credits. Earlier this year, after a House committee defeated an effort to eliminate the credits, Moore said the following:

“I would have had a difficult time talking to a CEO who just brought 300 jobs to Cleveland County [and telling him] that I’m going to vote to eliminate this program that justified their investment.”

If the new reports are true, it looks like Moore will have some explaining to do.


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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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

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