Rollback of Renewable Energy Mandate Will Hurt Small Biz

Triangle Business Journal-Cary, N.C.

“Four years ago, I, along with my wife Kathy Miller, started our small business in Cary because I saw the tremendous potential for solar energy in North Carolina.  A year earlier, in 2007, the state  legislature passed the first renewable energy standard in the Southeast, setting a path for our state to once again become a national leader in the next economic transition.

I am a Republican and an entrepreneur.  I saw an opportunity to build a profitable and sustainable business in the renewable energy industry. I knew the rules of the “game” and because those rules have worked well, my company has grown through hard work and good fortune along with the rest of the renewable energy industry in North Carolina.

But now, the General Assembly wants to change the rules – just as the renewable energy industry is developing significant momentum in our state. A bill now moving through the legislature (H.298) would essentially roll back the state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) that requires utilities to get a very small percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.

Rolling back this smart policy would make it difficult for small businesses such as ours to keep growing.   Ironically, the legislature’s action comes just as hundreds of innovative North Carolina businesses will be gathering this week (April 15-17) in Raleigh for the state’s 10th Annual Sustainable Energy Conference, and as the state is getting national recognition for its clean energy growth.

According to a study by RTI International and La Capra Associates, the state’s renewable energy standard has added $1.7 billion in economic benefits and created thousands of jobs in our state.  The nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), meanwhile, found that North Carolina was the No. 2 state in the country for clean energy and clean transportation job announcements last year – second only to California.  More than 10,800 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced the state in 2012.

The renewable standard is doing more than just creating jobs, though.  It’s also generating savings for all North Carolinians. In many areas of the state, electricity rates are lower than they would have been if REPS had not been implemented.  North Carolina’s electric customers could save $173 million by 2026 thanks to the renewable standard, according to RTI and La Capra.  Just last month, Duke Energy notified the North Carolina Utilities Commission that it plans to slash a 22-cent monthly charge to consumers, and instead return a penny to consumers every month. Why? Because Duke actually overestimated the cost of renewables.

Unfortunately, none of this seems to matter to some in the General Assembly. For whatever reason, the Republican majority that took over the state legislature – my fellow Republicans – seem intent to take our state backward.  After first trying to kill the renewable standard outright through H. 298 (introduced by Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherfordton, and a former Duke Energy> employee) lawmakers are now trying to juggle percentages and play math games to essentially water down the renewable standard until it’s completely ineffective.

This isn’t what the majority of North Carolinians say they want. A recent statewide survey by Fallon Research, for instance, found that nearly 83 percent of North Carolinians – including 76 percent of Republicans – said state leaders and elected officials should seek  more clean and renewable energy sources.

Next week’s sustainable energy conference is themed “Embrace the Intelligent Energy Future.”  Our lawmakers in Raleigh should take note of that theme and do the  intelligent thing:  Quit trying to kill renewable energy jobs and North Carolina’s renewable energy future.”


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