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Shaping the future

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story, published earlier in the News-Herald, is being re-published due to updated information.)

RALEIGH – The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA), a leading advocacy organization dedicated to shaping the state’s clean and efficient energy future, earlier this month named 5th District Representative Howard Hunter III as one of the group’s Clean Energy Emerging Leaders of 2015.

The awards were part of NCSEA’s annual “Making Energy Work: Power Forward” conference held Oct. 6-7 at the Raleigh Convention Center. The conference focused on the state of renewable energy in North Carolina, particularly in the solar sector, which has seen massive growth in recent years.

“North Carolina’s clean energy economy has champions from every corner of the state,” NCSEA Communications Manager Allison Eckley said. “This year’s Clean Energy Award winners have been instrumental in creating thousands of jobs, and providing longstanding infrastructure to secure a resilient, affordable electric portfolio for our future.

“In just the past seven years, North Carolina has invested over $2.6 billion in renewable energy projects, leading to an economic impact of over $4.7 billion,” Eckley added. “These investments are paying off. Last month, North Carolina became the first state in the southeast and the fourth state in the nation to have surpassed one giga-watt of installed solar capacity.”

The renewable energy industry suffered a setback this year when lawmakers in the General Assembly opted not to extend the state’s renewable energy tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of the year. But the NCSEA is focusing instead on some of the legislative wins the industry scores and already planning ahead for next year.

“NCSEA is disappointed to learn that the North Carolina General Assembly has neglected to include an extension of the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit in its proposed budget,” Eckley said. “By allowing the credit to sunset at the end of the 2015, the legislature has sent a clear message to countless clean energy workers, investors, businesses and customers that North Carolina is looking to roll back the clock on $4.7 billion in net positive economic impact and squander one of our state’s greatest economic opportunities of this decade and the next.”

 

While thanking the legislators who have championed the cause of clean energy, NCSEA Executive Director Ivan Urlaub pointed to job creation within the industry.

“The clean energy economy is responsible for creating thousands of jobs and revitalizing North Carolina’s most rural communities, while providing longstanding infrastructure to secure a resilient, affordable electric portfolio for our future,” he said. “We want to thank the countless business, non-profit, policy and customer voices who joined in this advocacy throughout the long legislative session.’

“We look forward to continuing to advocate for the clean energy economy that has created 23,000 jobs, lowered electric bills, cultivated a more resilient rural economy, and increased energy independence – both now and in the long-term,” Eckley continued.

Eckley adds that South Carolina, Georgia and other southeastern states have recently opened their doors to clean energy investment and jobs in an effort to emulate North Carolina’s successes.

“NCSEA will also support our members as they seek to grow in other states and diversify their markets in other states that have policies that support their employees and investments and bring profits home to NC,” Eckley concluded.

NCSEA made efforts in opposition of North Carolina House Bills which aimed to put a hold on the state’s renewable energy target. Under HB 332 and HB 760, North Carolina’s REPS would stall at six per cent of retail electricity sales, instead of steadily increasing to 12.5 per cent by 2021.

The version of House Bill 760 that passed is now in the Senate, but the Senate hasn’t moved the bill forward. Lawmakers could take that legislation up again next year during the short session.

Hunter said the SunEnergy-1 solar farm and Amazon Wind Farm will mean $400 million to the district and that plans for another solar farm in the Newland area and a wind farm at the Pasquotank-Perquimans County line have not gotten far enough to list taxes, but both will be eligible for the 80 percent tax break in property taxes.

Hunter said landowners have a chance to earn $6,000 a year on land leases for turbines. With the credits, those businesses could have earned $520,000 in tax relief.

“Out of the top-10 (solar energy producers), North Carolina is number-two,” Hunter stated.