September 12, 2017 Read More →

On the Blogs: No Place for Partisanship in North Carolina Energy Transition

SoutheastEnergyNews.com:

It is the reality of the world in which we live — Republicans and Democrats in the North Carolina General Assembly are often divided on complex social and economic issues. However, over 80 percent of legislation, including energy-related bills, are passed with strong bipartisan support.

True, there have been some contentious debates over the right path to expanding the renewable energy economy in North Carolina, but earlier this summer it appeared as though we had turned a corner in building consensus on prioritizing renewable energy as an economic driver in our state. The North Carolina House voted 108-11 to pass an energy bill that had been hammered out over the course of a year.

Before the vote, more than 30 meetings were held with a diverse set of energy stakeholders  that included utilities, the renewable energy industry, environmental groups and customer advocates.  These groups don’t often collaborate. But it happened here, and we were hopeful that North Carolina would continue to be recognized for its leadership in making renewable energy projects a reality.

These investments and the jobs they create are urgently needed, especially in the rural areas across North Carolina. According to a recent report prepared by RTI International, renewable energy projects have been responsible for nearly $800 million in major investments in the counties that we represent, where unemployment remains stubbornly high.

Solar and wind energy have provided one of the few economic bright spots in our corner of the state that is too often ignored by the private businesses that power our state’s economy, as well as by many policymakers who help guide it.

In the end, after contentious negotiations and compromise, the bill that Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law included much to celebrate. House Bill 589 modernizes our state’s solar policy and introduces new ways for home and business owners to transform their rooftops into energy generators. But despite our strong opposition, it also placed an unnecessary 18-month moratorium on wind energy development, which jeopardizes up to $1 billion in new investments by two wind projects in some of our most economically distressed counties.

Senators who pushed for the moratorium claimed more study is needed to ensure that wind turbines don’t interfere with military operations. But as one recent newspaper editorial stated, that’s absurd – our military officials already have an extensive and thorough review process to ensure nothing interferes with our valuable military operations, including wind turbines, cell towers, tall buildings or trees.

While we wholeheartedly agree on the importance of the military’s presence in our state, the recently built Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties has shown beyond a doubt the thoroughness and workability of the existing permitting process at the local, state and federal levels.

Further state study on the matter, as required in the legislation, is not needed. Our military and wind projects can co-exist successfully. And as legislators representing eastern North Carolina, we are united in working to keep these two new wind projects on track, so they can receive their final approvals and be built as soon as this ill-conceived moratorium ends.

More: Commentary: Renewable energy is an economic issue, not a partisan one

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