North Carolina solar’s ‘enviable position’ of needing perpetual life support

To hear them tell it, solar is a powerhouse industry that would collapse like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge if any state support were removed. —11/18/13

This “extraordinary success story” apparently needs to be on the public teat longer than Pu Yi, the boy emperor of China. — 3/25/13

It’s a bit like saying Zacchaeus was actually a very, very tall man, but in discussing his stature you absolutely must include the height of the sycamore tree. (Incidentally, prior to his famous encounter, Zacchaeus subsided off ill-gotten tax revenues.) — 3/25/13

I have frequently remarked on the curious dance done by the solar industry in North Carolina. They have to argue, at the same time, that the industry is very strong, a job-creating success story, but at the same time one that would disappear as soon as state and federal tax credits, purchasing mandates, and other incentives were to end.

Their argument is that this incredibly vibrant industry needs to be hooked up to artificial life support permanently.

The recent Pew Charitable Trusts report provided a telling example of this. It was entitled (emphasis added) “Clean Economy Rising: Solar shines in North Carolina,” but every single page underscored the fact that the ballyhooed “success” of solar energy in North Carolina is heavily dependent upon public policies, state and federal.

The actual news in the report, which no one picked up one save Carolina Journal, was that “when the federal tax credit expires, the report predicts a 75 percent reduction in investment in solar energy in the next two years.” And that only considers the federal tax credit’s effect, not the additional effects of the state’s renewable portfolio standards mandate or its investment tax credit.

Today the Triangle Business Journal reports on another solar report, this one out of Duke. Here is the article excerpted according to the solar dance:

NC solar is incredibly strong NC solar is incredibly weak
• “North Carolina, which had almost no large-scale solar energy seven years ago, now ranks first in the Southeast and fourth in the nation in solar energy capacity…”

• “North Carolina is in an enviable position when it comes to solar power development.”

• “The economic impact of North Carolina’s solar industry extends beyond its solar facilities, though. The report describes a solar ‘value chain’ of investors, solar developers, construction contractors and solar panel and component manufacturers comprising more than 450 companies … support[ing] some 4,300 jobs and represent a $2 billion investment [and] provid[ing] income for landowners and tax revenue for N.C. towns.”

“Uncertainty exists in North Carolina’s solar future, however. Three policy issues could affect North Carolina’s continued development of large-scale solar: [1] the impending expiration of the state-level renewable energy tax credit at the end of 2015; [2]the expected reduction of the federal investment tax credit from 30 percent to 10 percent at the end of 2016; and [3] a backlog of 400 projects that is hindering timely completion of solar power projects.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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