Front Porch Blog

June is “Solar Energy Month” in North Carolina

By Chelsey Fisher
Editorial assistant, Summer 2013

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory recently deemed June "Solar Energy Month," despite attempts by the General Assembly to repeal the state's renewable portfolio standard.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory recently deemed June “Solar Energy Month,” despite attempts by the General Assembly to repeal the state’s renewable portfolio standard.

On the heels of Republican-led legislative threats to environmental protection and renewable energy in North Carolina, Republican Governor Pat McCrory deemed June “Solar Energy Month” at a solar farm in Wake County on June 4.

This acknowledgment is definitely deserved, considering North Carolina ranked fourth in the nation for new clean energy projects and jobs during the beginning months of 2013. Clean energy has grown tremendously in the state over the past five years and has saved 8.2 million megawatt-hours, according to a study by Research Triangle Institute.

“We think the energy business, alongside with agriculture, will help North Carolina get out of this recession,” McCrory said at the declaration, according to the News & Observer.

Strata Solar CEO Markus Wilhelm, who owns one of the largest solar companies in the country, said to the News & Observer that he considered McCrory to be a “friend” of the solar industry.

Wilhelm also said that the growth in solar power usage in North Carolina is due to the state’s support of renewable energy.

However, there are numerous threats to North Carolina’s successful solar industry.

McCrory’s environmental positions have flip-flopped throughout his political career. A longtime employee of Duke Energy, the largest electric utility in the nation, McCrory has received criticism for refusing to disclose his stockholdings in the company. Before becoming governor, McCrory pushed for air quality protections while his law firm lobbied for the petroleum industry.

McCrory’s fellow Republicans in the N.C. House and Senate have sponsored numerous bills that could have a devastating impact on the state’s waters by rolling back regulations in the name of “job creation.”

One of these bills, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 (S 612), would create a “boundary loophole,” which would “allow groundwater to be contaminated by toxic chemicals such as arsenic, selenium and mercury, as long as it remains inside the owner’s property line.” This bill has already passed the state Senate.

Then there is the Affordable and Reliable Energy Act, a bill that would repeal the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard. The current standards were enacted in 2007 and North Carolina remains the only state in the Southeast to requires electric utilities to supply 12.5 percent of renewable energy by 2021. This bill passed the Senate Finance Committee but is unlikely to pass a full vote this session.

Gov. McCrory’s acknowledgment of the importance of solar energy to North Carolina certainly is a step in the right direction, but his dicey environmental past and the actions of state legislators show that there is still a need to work to protect North Carolina’s renewable and clean energy.

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