NC Lawmakers on How Renewable Energy Drives Economic Development

On a recent briefing call, North Carolina legislators told local chamber of commerce CEO’s and business leaders from across the state that new legislation (HB 332) intended to freeze existing renewable energy standards would negatively impact economic development.

Renewable energy “is not about hugging trees and kissing unicorns,” said Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland). “It is about business, property rights and job creation.”

Rep. Szoka and Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg) addressed more than 40 chamber leaders and business representatives during a May 29, 2015 briefing call cohosted by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy.

It was also reported on the call that a growing number of large businesses are insisting that renewable energy be available to power their facilities. For example, Apple, Google and Facebook recently sent a letter to North Carolina legislators emphasizing that the ability to access power from renewable energy is not merely a goal, but an expectation and that the current policies have provided “billions of dollars of in-state economic growth and thousands of jobs throughout the state.” (See letter). They also state that changes to the standards would “effectively create a barrier to the development of many new projects, and put a chill on investment.”

The lawmakers also briefed chamber leaders about two new bills intended to support further clean energy investment in North Carolina. Sen. Tarte is cosponsor of the North Carolina Energy Investment Act (Senate Bill 447), which would renew clean energy tax credit that is schedule to expire at the end of 2015.

“I’m a firm believer that tax credits and tax policy drive economic development,” Senator Tarte said, adding that clean energy investment offers a “pretty damn good investment in ROI” (return on investment.) An estimated $80 million in state incentives led to investments totaling $900.7 million in clean energy and energy efficiency in 2014, according to a recent report commissioned by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

Rep. Szoka is cosponsor of the North Carolina Energy Freedom Act (HB 245), which would allow developers of renewable energy to sell power directly to customers rather than being required to sell it to utilities. Businesses—including Walmart, Cargill, Target, and North Carolina-based Lowes and Family Dollar—have also supported this direct access to renewable energy.