Fighting for Solar in the Tar Heel State

Contributor: Swinerton Blogger   |   June 10, 2015
Fighting for Solar in the Tar Heel State

The North Carolina tax credit, which helped the state jump to number eight in the nation in the number of solar jobs, was set to expire on December 31. Since Swinerton Renewable Energy recently invested heavily in the state, betting on its continued steep growth, we bit our nails to the nubs as we watched the heated debate on a tax-credit extension play out.

After all, an extension was hardly guaranteed. Between an anti-solar House of Representatives and pro-fossil fuel money flooding into the state, the tax credit could have very easily abruptly ended—and with it, North Carolina’s reputation as a solar-friendly state.

But in the end, cooler heads prevailed. On April 30, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory extended the renewable energy tax credit for one year, despite heavy lobbying from his own party to veto what it sees as unfair subsidies to the solar industry.

We wish the extension had been for multiple years instead of just one. But would the inevitable darkening of the solar industry have been a better choice? Absolutely not.

According to The Solar Foundation, below is North Carolina’s solar industry by the numbers: 

- North Carolina ranks number eight in the country for the amount of solar jobs
- In the past two years, 2,550 well-paying solar jobs have been created in North Carolina

Awaiting the outcome of this bill, the livelihoods of solar industry workers hung in the balance. To protect their jobs, they fought, scratched, and clawed their way into the conversation. They lobbied. They organized. They met with their representatives and delivered a fervent message—please don’t destroy the jobs that keep our families fed.

Thanks in large part to their efforts, the pro-solar side won the day Governor McCrory signed the extension—and we at Swinerton could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

But as it turns out, this fight is far from over.

There is an anti-solar bill making its way through the North Carolina legislature right now—HB 332—that could do nearly as much damage as removing the tax credit. HB 332 would put a hard cap on the amount of renewable energy utilities have to buy at market rates from consumers. In some cases, that would remove the incentive to add a solar array on a commercial building. If they are not going to get paid for relieving congestion on the grid, why would they bother doing it?

We love North Carolina and believe their potential for solar growth is immense. We’ve invested our money, time, and people into helping the state reach its rightful place in the sun, despite efforts to put unnecessary obstacles in our way.

We won a close fight last time. It’s time to gear up for round two.