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Clean Energy, Clear Benefits

By: Jim Kennerly and Betsy McCorkle, Guest Contributors - Charlotte Business Journal


In his inaugural address, Gov. Pat McCrory laidout a vision for a state government that encourages entrepreneurship and promotes an environment that encourages growth. Since 2007, state policies encouraging the growth of our clean-energy industry have helped to do just that. Meanwhile, electricity customers have more energy choices and are saving on their electric bills.

Whether you’re in uptown Charlotte, Shelby, Catawba County, the mountains or the coast, look around and you’ll probably come across a clean-energy company or project such as a solar farm. To gain an independent, objective and full-spectrum view of the total impact of these clean-energy projects, the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association asked researchers at RTI International and La Capra Associates to help us understand the economic impact of these projects, as well as their cost to N.C. electricity customers.

In their report, the researchers found the policies most responsible for driving clean-energy development were the state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard, an investment-tax credit and the Utility Savings Initiative, a program that encourages energy savings in state buildings. The researchers found these policies were responsible for these impacts since 2007:

•$1.4 billion in direct investment in clean-energy projects statewide, and nearly $500 million in 2012 alone.

•$1.7 billion in total gross state product.

•21,162 job-years (a job year equals one person working full time for one year) since 2007, a period in which North Carolina lost 100,000 jobs.

•For each $1 spent on the renewable-energy tax credit, clean-energy development returned $1.87 through state and local tax receipts. This is money that can be spent on core government functions such as education, transportation and public safety.

•Clean-energy investment exceeded $100 million in each of Davidson, Person and Robeson counties, while investment ranged from $25 million to $100 million in each of Beaufort, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Duplin, Mecklenburg and Wake counties.

Perhaps most important, RTI’s and La Capra’s researchers found the policies encouraging in-state investment are likely to help N.C. electricity customers save on their power bills. They estimate customers will save $173 million by 2026.

As McCrory and the General Assembly consider an energy strategy for our state, this study should encourage them to applaud the success of the clean-energy industry and maintain the policies that are enabling more market competition and choice for consumers.

Jim Kennerly is the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association’s regulatory and policy analyst. Betsy McCorkle is director of government affairs. A document summarizing the report’s findings is available on the organization’s website.

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