Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards

New report highlights the economic benefits of clean energy

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And rural areas are getting a large slice of that pie:

A new report shows the economic impact of more than a decade of clean energy investment in the state. The study from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association finds clean energy development projects generated more than $28.2 billion dollars statewide since 2007.

Clean energy projects can be a boon to rural, low-income counties. The report finds rural Eastern counties have benefitted the most. Duplin and Robeson counties lead the state with more than $650 million dollars of clean energy investment apiece.

In place of my normal long-winded spiel, I'll quote myself from almost four years ago:

Massive Solar farm planned near Elizabeth City

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Duke Energy's monopoly is about to get a little thinner:

Pasquotank County officials find themselves in a quandary over whether to welcome or discourage a proposed solar farm that would be one of the largest east of the Mississippi River. Adani Solar USA of Texas plans to build a 2,940-acre solar farm stretching more than four miles on agricultural land along U.S. 17 west of Elizabeth City. The site would operate as Birchwood Solar.

The project would lie within sight of a 104 turbine wind farm – the largest in the state – and could set Elizabeth City apart as a hot bed for renewable energy in North Carolina. The company’s application did not specify the projected megawatt production or the amount of investment, but a project in Currituck County of 500,000 solar panels on 2,000 acres produces 120 megawatts, which can power about 13,000 homes. The $250 million Currituck site generates about $225,000 annually in tax revenues.

I hesitate to say anything before the new General Assembly is sworn in come January, but this (could be) a prime example of how important flipping that Veto-proof majority is. Republicans are reactionary by nature, and no doubt conservatives are already planning to fight this record-breaking renewable energy project. It also demonstrates how important local government elections can be, and citizen participation in meetings:

Trump to levy 30% tariff on imported Solar panels

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Because when something is working very well, it's time to break it:

Suniva spokesman Mark Paustenbach called tariffs "a step forward for this high-tech solar-manufacturing industry we pioneered right here in America." However, solar installers and manufacturers of other equipment used to run solar-power systems opposed tariffs, which they said will raise their prices and hurt demand for the renewable energy.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents installation companies, said billions of dollars of solar investment will be delayed or canceled, leading to the loss of 23,000 jobs this year. Mark Bortman, founder of Exact Solar in Philadelphia, said the prospect of tariffs, since the trade commission recommended them in October, had already caused him to delay hiring and expansion plans. "Solar is really just starting to take off because it is truly a win-win-win situation" for consumers, workers and the environment, he said. "Tariffs would really be shooting ourselves in the foot."

Environmentalists should not be "torn" on his issue. Make no mistake, it's a bad idea, and very likely will please fossil fuel companies and their advocates. And considering some of the comments I've seen by those who should know better, I guess it's time for another lecture on this complicated issue:

Duke Energy hampering investments in NC Solar farms

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It's all about the duration of contracts:

One of the nation’s biggest solar developers is challenging Duke Energy’s purchases of solar energy in a case before the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The complaint by California-based Cypress Creek Renewables focuses on an arcane topic – the term of power-purchase contracts by Duke. But its outcome could affect the way the solar industry continues to grow in the nation’s second-largest solar state.

Cypress Creek approached Duke about power purchase agreements for six large solar farms, totaling 400 megawatts, before Duke had filed its competitive-bids proposal. But Duke offered only five-year contracts instead of the longer terms usual for big projects.

This article is dated (February), but a very recent piece in the paywall-protected Charlotte Business Journal reported that Solar farm connections are down some 75% due to this new approach by Duke Energy to manipulate Solar growth in NC. Cypress Creek is a Santa Monica-based company, and has been very successful in rounding up investment dollars for NC Solar farm projects. But that measly five year contract is a killer, seriously undermining the return on investment (ROI) formula that has been so successful here. Like always, being in control is at the top of Duke Energy's list of priorities:

On the grid vs off the grid: A successful Solar revolution includes both

In the last few years, I've had numerous conversations with various people on renewable energy generation. And most of them, even those with much more technical savvy than I have, were missing some critical pieces of the puzzle in their understanding of the rapid growth of Solar in North Carolina and elsewhere. In example, here's a paraphrased conversation from a few months ago:

Lifelong Republican questions attacks on renewable energy

Hopefully the beginning of a movement:

In Forsyth County where I live, we have more than 75 renewable energy projects, including biomass and solar on corporate, residential, educational and government properties or projects producing power that’s sold directly to a utility. We also have 45 EnergyStar certified buildings and 27 LEED-certified buildings. Clean energy is an engine to create jobs and generate much-needed investment in all 100 counties of North Carolina.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) held a “Free the Grid Tour” event in Winston-Salem last week about the “power struggle” in North Carolina, inviting the community to “return power to the people.” However, they’re also calling for the repeal of the REPS law — and the resulting market competition. As a free-market issue, how can AFP and other clean-energy critics want to return power to the people, but strip them of our state’s limited market competition and choice?

The answer is simple, really. AFP was created and is funded by the fossil fuel industry, and renewable energy is a direct threat to their profit margins. You don't need one of the Koch Industries' leaky pipelines to run a Solar farm or a biomass facility, and energy-efficient buildings reduce the 'load" demand on coal and natural gas power plants. What happened recently in Asheville is a prime example. Duke Energy was given permission to build two nat gas power plants, but their 3rd "backup" plant was rejected as not necessary:

Van der Vaart: Restrict Solar, incentivize nuclear

Apparently our definition of the word "clean" has been wrong until now:

One proposal discussed Wednesday would require a state permit for any new solar farm. That would give the state the final say on whether a property owner can lease his or her land for solar. It would also require a bond for eventual removal of the equipment.

"We are a huge solar state, and we have to put our big boy pants on and treat it as such," Secretary of Environmental Quality Donald van der Vaart told the Energy Policy Council.

Where do I start? I'm tempted to start with "big boy pants," but that's so stupid it could derail the entire conversation. How about: When Bev Perdue was still Governor but the GOP had taken over the Legislature, that august body engaged in a fact-finding tour, with the sole purpose of undermining DENR. Witness after witness whined about the over-regulation of the environmental agency, and how the sluggish permitting process was stifling economic growth. And now the new Secretary is proposing to do just that; clamp down on property owners and "control" the growth of Solar via bureaucratic delays and costly (and unnecessary) safety protocols. If irony was a toxic substance, we'd all be dead by now. But even worse, van der Vaart's alternative could actually kill us:

The disingenuous faux-Libertarian attack on renewables

Ripping up the astroturf:

The attack dogs in this war are funded by Koch Industries and include Americans for Prosperity, American Energy Alliance and the American Legislative Exchange Council. They frame their attacks as a defense of the free market and fiscal conservatism. Yet even a cursory examination of their positions reveals they’re not defending the free market but attempting to protect the fossil fuel industry from competition.

Not sure if this Conservative's opinion signals a movement growing or is simply an anomaly, but the fossil fuel industry's actions are blatantly obvious. Harnessing clean, renewable energy resources like Solar has been a wildly popular idea for decades, and now that we're finally seeing a massive surge in installations, any pushback on that is liable to carry a heavy political price. One can hope, anyway.

Argumentum ad Temperantiam brings REPS to its knees

Also known as "middle ground" or "appeal to moderation" logical fallacies:

When a similar bill filed this session was voted down in committee, Hager added the substance of the bill as an amendment to Regulatory Reform Act of 2015. Hager’s amendment capped the requirement at 6 percent and set it to expire altogether in 2018.

After push back from supporters of renewable energy, a compromise amendment approved late Wednesday caps the rate permanently at 6 percent and repeals an 80 percent property-tax break that solar farms and facilities now receive. “It saves REPS but freezes it,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), who fought to establish the standards in 2007.

I would never dream of questioning or advising Pricey on legislative matters or environmental issues. That being said, it's my understanding that Hager's amendment (which, as a bill, couldn't make it out of Committee) was withdrawn when this "compromise" amendment was accepted. Meaning an amendment with a questionable chance of passing on the floor served as a "lever" to swing votes for this other, less damaging amendment. Here's a question for lawmakers: If either of these amendments were put forward by themselves, where no comparisons or compromises were involved, would either have passed?

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