Celebrating National Clean Energy Week
NCSEA would like to celebrate National Clean Energy Week (September 26 to 30) in light of all the exciting progress that has been made in our state over the past year. This year also comes with a proclamation from Governor Roy Cooper dedicating this week as North Carolina’s Clean Energy Week. This blog recognizes the unprecedented momentum in and around clean energy in NC and highlights the opportunities ahead. From historic federal legislation and investment to progress made at the state and local levels, there is plenty to celebrate!
What’s all the buzz about?
Clean energy continues to make headlines throughout the country and NC is making strides to create a low carbon economy that benefits all citizens. This is a result of collaborative advocacy, bipartisan participation, and widespread stakeholder engagement.
Today, NC ranks fourth in the nation in installed solar capacity, ninth in clean energy jobs, and first in clean energy jobs in rural counties. Further, renewables now account for nearly 16% of the state’s energy portfolio, with 8,967 megawatts (MW) of generation, a figure that continues to grow. Let’s dive into some highlights that have taken place throughout the past year:
House Bill 951: Energy Solutions for NC (HB 951) was signed into law in December 2021. As we approach the anniversary of this historic bipartisan legislation, the first of its kind in the Southeast, it’s important to remember why it marked such a significant step forward for clean energy.
- A Plan for Carbon Reduction: The bill codified carbon reduction mandates of 70% of 2005 levels by 2030 and carbon-neutrality by 2050. In order to achieve these targets, HB951 tasked the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC) with creating a Carbon Plan by December 2022. NCSEA and partners have been hard at work since then, filing their own modeling after voicing numerous concerns about Duke Energy’s proposed plan earlier this year. The plan from the Coalition of Low-Cost Energy And Net-Zero (CLEAN) Intervenors, of which NCSEA was a party, offers the NCUC a pathway to achieving the carbon reduction statutory mandates in a more cost-effective and timely manner.
- Regulatory Reform & Rulemaking: HB951 also established a performance-based regulation (PBR) structure and performance incentive mechanisms (PIMs) to alter the way in which privately-owned monopoly utilities, such as Duke Energy, are incentivized to do business. NCSEA continues to be active in this docket to help further align utility and customer interests. Hopeful outcomes of these proceedings are incentivizing the utility to reduce low- to moderate- income (LMI) energy burdens and expand energy efficiency opportunities across the state.
Governor Cooper’s Executive Orders (EOs) have created strong market signals over the past year, indicating NC’s commitment to advancing clean energy and environmental justice. In addition to the numerous orders signed over the past year or so, the Governor also proclaimed September 26-30 as NC Clean Energy Week to call attention to success around the state and continue "leading the way in the transition toward a clean energy future.” Below are a few recent milestones stemming out of the Governor’s Office:
- EO 246: NC’s Transformation to a Clean, Equitable Economy established a target of 1.25 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road in NC by 2030 and 50% of new vehicle sales by the same date. Within the EO, the Governor also directed the NC Department of Transportation (DOT) to create a Clean Transportation Plan no later than April 2023 outlining recommendations to reach the ZEV targets and decarbonize the transportation sector. This is important, as NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) found the sector to be the leading emitter, at 36%, in its most recent Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
- EO 218: Advancing NC’s Economic and Clean Energy Future with Offshore Wind (OSW) set a target of developing 2.8 GW of OSW off the NC coast by 2030 and 8.0 GW by 2040. Reaching these goals would provide roughly 2.3 million homes with clean power by 2040. Earlier this year, TotalEnergies Renewables USA and Duke Energy Renewables Wind won bids for new OSW development in NC that could power nearly 500,000 homes.
- The impact of workforce development programs with schools like NC Agricultural & Technical (A&T) State University, Appalachian State University, and Eastern Carolina University continues to grow across the state. These programs are designed to build interest in NC’s clean energy future amongst students from underserved backgrounds, while developing the workforce to support the growing industry. In August 2022, it was announced that NC A&T State University was a recipient of a $23.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to expand clean energy workforce development and apprenticeship efforts in the state.
- Peter Ledford (previously serving as NCSEA’s General Counsel) was appointed as the NC Clean Energy Director by Governor Cooper’s Office in July 2022. In this role, he will help the state achieve the goals laid out by these EOs and pursue a clean energy economy.
Federal and Private Funding have reached an unprecedented level. This will drive market certainty and technological innovation to accelerate widespread adoption of clean energy across sectors.
- The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was signed into law in August 2022, marking the single largest clean energy investment in US history. As part of the bill, $370 billion will be allocated over the next decade to spur further renewable energy deployment and increase accessibility, affordability, and jobs across the country. The IRA also expands and extends the Federal Renewable Investment Tax Credit to 30% for another ten years for wind, solar, and stand-alone battery storage development. Further, it provides tax credits, energy efficiency incentives, and weatherization assistance for more North Carolinians including:
- A 30% tax credit to install solar and battery systems,
- $7,500 tax credit for new EVs and $4,000 for used EVs starting in Janwuary 2023, and
- Rebates of up to 50-100% for new, energy efficient appliances, as well as funding for weatherization projects across the state.
- NC could receive more than $1 billion over the next five years from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Significant amounts of IIJA funding will be dedicated to building out a nationwide EV charging network as NC DOT implements its Clean Transportation Plan.
- The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) could provide approximately $1.6 billion to be invested in state energy programs, grid resilience, and competitive grant opportunities. ARPA is slated to directly support clean energy workforce development, community solar, and weatherization programs to uplift LMI communities across the state that experience a disproportionate energy burden.
- Volkswagen (VW) Emissions Cheating Settlement: NC DEQ’s Department of Air Quality, the entity in charge of distributing VW funds, awarded $2.8 million in Phase 1 to replace school and transit buses across the state. The state has entered Phase 2, where $63.9 million will be targeted to further fleet replacements and bolster charging infrastructure in priority corridors, coastal evacuation routes, and rural areas. These programs include the following (in millions): Transit ($13.5), Clean Heavy-Duty ($12.9), School Bus ($27.1), EV Charging Infrastructure - DC Fast ($7.1) and Level 2 ($2.0)
Corporations across NC are taking advantage of this clean energy transition, with at least 41 of our state’s 50 largest private employers committing to renewable energy, electric vehicles, energy conservation, and emissions reductions.
- There are over 1,224 business-owned renewable energy projects in NC, which has led to nearly $20 billion of clean energy investment from 2007-2020.
- Over 350 companies in the nation and around the world have committed to operations with 100% renewable energy, including 86 with facilities, operations, or employees in NC.
It’s an exciting time to be involved in sustainable energy! Are you ready to advance clean energy in NC and beyond? Be sure to register for NCSEA’s annual Making Energy Work conference (October 25-27) to gain a deeper understanding of these cutting-edge clean energy policies and collaborate with industry leaders.
Thank you for this concise yet comprehensive summary of the quickly evolving landscape of NC’s clean energy transition. This is an exciting time to be in the field.