A report released this week by Environment North Carolina’s Research and Policy Center shows that solar power is growing quickly in the state. So quickly, in fact, that solar power could generate 20 percent of North Carolina’s electricity within 15 years, a goal that was once considered improbable.
Currently, the solar industry employs 3100 people in North Carolina and the state ranks third nationally in total solar power capacity, though solar power makes up less than one percent of the state’s energy use as of now.
But researchers found that North Carolina’s solar capacity has grown 127 percent since 2010.
Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, attributes this rise in clean energy use primarily to the 2007 enactment of the Renewable Energy Standards Portfolio—which requires 12.5 percent of the state’s energy to come from clean, renewable sources by 2021–and to the state’s clean energy tax credits.
Harrison said, as of 2013, North Carolina is third in the country in private investment in solar power, fifth in homes powered by solar energy and tenth in solar energy jobs.
“I’m proud of the fact that North Carolina has been a leader in the clean energy economy, especially in the southeast,” Harrison said.
“But there is more that we can do. This is not just an economic argument, but there’s a public health argument. It cleans up our air and our water and we have a moral imperative to do something about the impending climate change issue that we need to tackle at the state and federal levels.”
Harrison said she hopes that the Legislature will do more this upcoming legislative session to further incentives for the solar industry, but that it is hard to say whether that will materialize.
“I think (former House speaker Thom Tillis) was more supportive of clean energy than a lot of his colleagues in the (Republican) caucus, so I’m not sure where we’re going to go with that,” she said.
Harrison added that because of the recent efforts to do away with tax incentives, she doesn’t have great hope that North Carolina will extend its clean energy tax incentives.
“There are other initiatives we could take that don’t cost taxpayers any money and that aren’t regulatory, but provide incentives,” she said. “This has been a real silver lining when we were in a deep recession and this an important industry to continue to grow.”