A bill introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly, aptly titled the Solar Jobs Bill, would require utilities to double the amount of solar power sold to customers in North Carolina by 2018. In addition to pushing the solar industry forward in N.C., the bill would also result in continued job growth in the renewable energy industry; the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) estimates this bill would create 4,000 new jobs. Approximately 2,000 people at 170 companies in N.C. are currently employed by the solar industry. The proposed law also seeks to limit the number of solar renewable energy credits utilities can purchase from outside of N.C.
Backers of the bill are happy to note it enjoys bi-partisan support in both chambers of the statehouse. The House version, House Bill 495, has been sponsored by Republican members Ruth Samuelson, Tom Murry and Tim Moffitt as well as Democrat James Crawford. Senate Bill 473, an identical bill introduced in the state Senate, has been sponsored by Democrat Josh Stein and Republicans Tom Apodaca and Peter Brunstetter.
The Solar Jobs Bill would amend a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) law passed in 2007 that requires 12.5 percent of the power sold by utilities in N.C. to come from renewable sources by 2021. The REPS law requires that .2 percent of all energy sold by utilities in N.C. to come from solar power. The Solar Jobs Bill aims to double that amount to .4 percent by 2021 and accelerates the timetable for the solar requirement to be phased in. Under the proposed law, the amount of solar power sold to customers jumps to .25 percent by 2015, under the current law that number stands at .14 percent by 2015.
While increasing the amount of solar required from .2 to .4 percent is a modest increase, NCSEA says that this bill could boost the amount of solar power production statewide to 180 MW by 2021. While that figure just begins to realize the vast potential of solar in the state, it dwarfs the 60 MW of solar that is currently installed in N.C.