Proposed Law Would Double Amount of Solar Power Sold in NC by 2018

A bill introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly, aptly titled the Solar Jobs Bill, would require utilities to double the amount of solar power sold to customers in North Carolina by 2018. In addition to pushing the solar industry forward in N.C., the bill would also result in continued job growth in the renewable energy industry; the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) estimates this bill would create 4,000 new jobs. Approximately 2,000 people at 170 companies in N.C. are currently employed by the solar industry. The proposed law also seeks to limit the number of solar renewable energy credits utilities can purchase from outside of N.C.Solar Installer

Backers of the bill are happy to note it enjoys bi-partisan support in both chambers of the statehouse. The House version, House Bill 495, has been sponsored by Republican members Ruth Samuelson, Tom Murry and Tim Moffitt as well as Democrat James Crawford. Senate Bill 473, an identical bill introduced in the state Senate, has been sponsored by Democrat Josh Stein and Republicans Tom Apodaca and Peter Brunstetter.

The Solar Jobs Bill would amend a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) law passed in 2007 that requires 12.5 percent of the power sold by utilities in N.C. to come from renewable sources by 2021. The REPS law requires that .2 percent of all energy sold by utilities in N.C. to come from solar power. The Solar Jobs Bill aims to double that amount to .4 percent by 2021 and accelerates the timetable for the solar requirement to be phased in. Under the proposed law, the amount of solar power sold to customers jumps to .25 percent by 2015, under the current law that number stands at .14 percent by 2015.

While increasing the amount of solar required from .2 to .4 percent is a modest increase, NCSEA says that this bill could boost the amount of solar power production statewide to 180 MW by 2021. While that figure just begins to realize the vast potential of solar in the state, it dwarfs the 60 MW of solar that is currently installed in N.C.

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Why should we double the solar set aside and minimize the other renewable energy methods approved in the Renewable energy Portfolio, such as wind, biomass or animal waste? The answer is easy, because without the requirement solar would not have a chance to chosen. Solar is over 600% the buss bar cost of coal, completely misses the winter peak (6 to 8 am), has terrible availability issues (less than 4 hours average usable sunlight a day) and can only survive with tax dollar subsidies passed through the uitlities. To attract new industry we must pursue the lowest cost energy combination we can. If we are going to use the Renewable Energy portfolio as a means of forcing these types of energy on the ratepayers then open it up to let the utilities decide on exactly which type of the aforementioned energies make up the 12.5%, thus achieving the goal but in the most effective way.

Comment by Mike hager on July 12, 2011 3:52 pm

Mr Hager,

I believe you are relying on dated information. Solar prices in many parts of the country are now cost-competitive with traditional energy sources, and it’s cheaper than new nuclear. The cost of solar has fallen sharply and will only continue to plummet – the price of polysilicon, the main component in solar photovoltaics, dropped nearly 30% in the past three months and a whopping 90% since 2008! Falling prices combined with a huge increase in demand more than doubled the US’s amount of new solar energy in 2010 (441 Megawatts to 956 Megawatts), and is predicted to double again in 2011. Solar is capable of producing energy from 10am to as late as 7pm on summer days, and its efficiency continues to accelerate with new innovations.

Solar is also the most job-intensive energy source we have. The solar related job growth rate is currently 19%, while the growth of the entire economy is only 2%. Not only is solar becoming an economic engine for our country, it also provides a way for people (both citizens and companies) to take charge of their own energy costs and production.

As for tax dollar subsidies, solar subsidies are a drop in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars of government subsidies that coal and oil still receive. Just about every major industry in the U.S., whether it’s railroads or the phone system, has been heavily subsidized by the government to get them off the ground. Yes, blowing the tops off of mountains allows the market price of coal to be cheap, but the price of coal doesn’t factor in the external costs pushed onto the public in the way of health costs and environmental degradation.

Solar already is, and will continue to be, a part of this county’s energy solution.

Comment by Lauren Steier on July 13, 2011 6:45 pm

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