Hundreds of solar industry employees streamed into the North Carolina capitol building Tuesday. They were there to add their voices to the many objecting to H332 and H760, two bills under consideration that would stall the state’s clean energy sourcing at 6 percent. As currently written, the standard would increase to 10 percent in 2018 and 12.5 percent in 2021.
This move to freeze the state's clean energy standards has drawn criticism beyond the over 4,000 North Carolinians with jobs in the solar industry. Yesterday former chairman and CEO of North Carolina-based Bank of America added to the chorus of business leaders opposing the move: “Critics of solar don’t understand that it is here to stay…The question is, will it stay in North Carolina?”
Jim Rogers, former CEO of Duke Energy, echoed these sentiments in a speech to energy industry professionals where he critiqued the legislation’s cooling effect on economic growth. “I say shame on us for not being focused on the technology of the 21st century. Shame on us for turning our backs on this industry growing here.”
Last week Google, Apple, and Facebook sent a joint letter to the leaders of the state House and Senate making it clear that, as global companies, “the right and ability to access power from renewable resources is not merely a goal, but an expectation.” Some estimates place these companies’ investment in North Carolina data centers alone at around $2.7 billion.
Even members of the state Senate finance committee questioned the merits of the freeze, but a chairman who muscled H332 through committee silenced their inquiries. A video of the vote, which one Senator called “a crass abuse of power”, is below. In it you can see discussion of the renewable energy provision denied and a call for a “division” vote, which allows for an individual tally, being over-ruled. Denying the division vote is a violation of legislative rules.
It is unclear when H332 and H760 will go before the General Assembly for a vote, but it is clear that there are many who will oppose this misguided effort to slow the growth of North Carolina’s renewable energy progress.