(From Steve DeVane, THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER, 6/08/15)
State lawmakers are considering measures that could make the future of solar industry cloudy just as the state and Cape Fear region are starting to shine. About 500 construction workers who build solar farms were in Raleigh last week to talk to legislators about what their jobs have meant to them. The workers included veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Betsy McCorkle, the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association's director for government affairs.
Separate measures under consideration in the General Assembly would scale back a 2007 law that kick-started renewable energy in the state. One bill would cap or freeze the amount of power that utility companies are required to get from renewable sources at 6 percent. The 2007 law included a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which required utilities to get 3 percent of their power from renewable sources in 2012, with the amount increasing to 6 percent this year, 10 percent in 2018 and 12.5 percent in 2021. The cap on the standard cleared a Senate committee in a controversial voice vote but has not been voted on by the full Senate or the House. Another proposal would end tax credits for companies that build solar farms. A two-year extension of the tax credits was included in the House budget, but it's unclear if it will be in the Senate's budget. McCorkle said arguments that the solar industry needs to stand on its own or operate on a level playing field aren't valid because the energy industry in North Carolina is not a free market. "Those sound bites don't apply to a regulated monopoly," she said.