Both sides agree: Renewable energy depends on subsidies
RALEIGH — An environmental group lauding North Carolina for ranking No. 4 nationally in solar energy capacity
agrees with foes of renewable energy mandates — the state’s purported boom in clean energy mostly results from the government forcing utilities to purchase the higher-cost energy, along with incentive deals that shift costs totaxpayers.
“Specifically, the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards and the renewable energy tax credits have set the stage for solar businesses … to soar,” said Rachel Morales with Environment North Carolina, a state-based environmental advocacy group, at a Sept. 10 news conference unveiling a report titled “Lighting the Way: The Top States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2014.”
“Strong public policies at the local, state, and federal level are necessary for North Carolina to achieve its true solar potential,” Morales added.
“North Carolina has become a national leader in clean energy technology, and it’s largely a result of Senate
Bill 3,” said state House Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford.
Passed by the General Assembly in 2007, the far-reaching legislation requires electric utilities to buy
Increasingly larger volumes of renewable energy and provides 35 percent state tax credits for solar investment.
“What amazes me about this is it basically acknowledges everything that the opponents of solar subsidies have been saying … that the solar industry is a creature of the state,” said Roy Cordato, the John Locke Foundation’s vice president for research and resident scholar.
The Foundation is a well-respected conservative think tank based in Raleigh.
The state has issued more than $224 million in renewable tax credits since 2010, mostly to large banks and insurance companies, according to the North Carolina Department of Revenue.
North Carolina’s solar industry “is not a creature in any way, shape, or form of the market,” Cordato said,
“which means it’s not the low-cost, reliable energy that some people make it out to be.”
He cited an Environment North Carolina press release that “says it’s the public policies” responsible for solar
growth, “which basically puts a gun to ratepayers’ heads and says you must buy this. Well, any industry can survive if people have to buy your product.”
“We talk about mandates. We talk about subsidies. We talk about all these other things. But polio vaccines are
mandates. Anybody here think that’s a bad idea?” state Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, said during the news conference. “We have to understand that just because it’s a mandate, just because it’s a subsidy, just because it’s a tax credit doesn’t mean it’s bad,” Jeter added.
State Rep. Michael Wray, D-Northampton, said solar projects “are delivering much-needed investment, jobs,
business opportunities, and new tax revenues to our local and state governments.”