Proponents of “green” energy are terrifically excited about the growth of solar energy in North Carolina. In fact, the Solar Energy Industries Association cites North Carolina as the second leading state for solar energy capacity.
North Carolina isn’t necessarily a sunny state (compared to Arizona, Florida, or Nevada) and is not geographically situated to be a leader in solar energy production. So why is the Tar Heel State a leader in solar?
A variety of federal and state policies have been passed that prop up the solar industry with sweetheart deals. Here are a few:
- In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). While this law did a lot of things, it forced electric utilities to buy power from renewable and cogeneration power producers. Individual states were tasked with how the contracts would be implemented, and in North Carolina that meant the Public Utilities Commission. In other words, your power company must buy solar power, whether it wants to or not, and must do it at the contract rate set by the North Carolina Public Utilities Commission. North Carolina has historically had one of the more lucrative PURPA contract structures in the country.
- In 2007, Governor Mike Easley signed a bill that created a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS). In short, this policy requires that, by the end of 2020, 12.5 percent of all retail electrical sales in North Carolina must come from renewable energy sources. To help pay for this additional cost, this law allowed power companies to add a rider fee onto customers’ power bills (check your next power bill for Renewable Rider Fee or Renewable Energy Rider). These fees are assessed for residential, industrial, and commercial customers.
- North Carolina has a sweetheart property tax exclusion for solar energy – no other energy source has this exclusion. General Statute 105-275 allows owners of solar energy systems to only pay 20 percent of the property tax they should owe. What a deal!
These are only three examples and do not include the solar rebate program created in 2017, or the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit that was in place from 1978 to 2015.
However, with all that help, it is no wonder that solar energy has grown so much in North Carolina. But, also with all that help, it appears that solar still isn’t producing very much electricity in our state.
According to a recent report from North Carolina Public Radio:
N.C. State University Energy Economist Harrison Fell explained the state is capable of running seven percent of the energy grid on solar. But, of course, it’s not always sunny.
“In terms of actual generation, only about three percent of our power comes from solar,” Fell said. “And so it’s still a small sliver of our total generation.”
Yes, you read it correctly. THREE PERCENT. After all the subsidies, tax exclusions and mandates to buy solar energy, it only produces 3 percent of what North Carolina needs.
Hopefully, lawmakers will start to understand what a bad investment looks like, and stop being so concerned about all the political money that Big Solar is bringing to North Carolina.