SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
State Energy Overview
North Carolina is home to a uniquely diverse landscape, ranging from the mountains of Western North Carolina to the Outer Banks along the Eastern shore. These unique and treasured places also come with distinct risks from climate change.
North Carolina is one of the region’s leaders, with a state commission on climate change and a budding policy roadmap that points the state in the right direction. The state has clear opportunities for energy efficiency, solar, and wind, both on- and off-shore. Some clean energy policies are already in place, and North Carolina can enable confident investments in renewable energy with a comprehensive policy that is designed to maximize the state’s renewable energy potential.
North Carolina, like many Southeastern states, sends billions of dollars out of state for energy resources annually to power the state and provide for its residents. But there are local opportunities that can help shift that equation. Our analysis shows North Carolina has a significant amount of commercially available and sustainable biopower capacity based on various biomass resources. Utilizing any of these resources will need to be done carefully and require thorough assessments of need, resource availability and other demands, water use, biodiversity, carbon, soil quality, air quality and other economic and environmental impacts. Many projects have been proposed for the state, but the prospects for their development remain unclear, based on factors including resource availability, federal regulations and laws, financing and environmental impacts. You can read more about bioenergy by visiting our Learn About page, here.
There are currently 14 coal plants in North Carolina owned by Duke (Progress) Energy, the major energy provider in the state. Duke Energy has made commitments to retire 3,134 Megawatts (MW) of coal-fired capacity from 27 units at 9 coal plants by 2018 (one facility retiring is located in South Carolina). North Carolina utilities currently spend a total of about $2.35 billion on coal each year. The state appears as number 4 in the list of the top 15 states for coal health impacts in 2010, there were 487 hospitalizations, 912 heart attacks and 681 deaths related to pollution from coal plants in North Carolina. In 2010, 55.9% of energy in the state came from coal. Even though dependence on coal has declined over the past decade from 62.1% in 2000, it is still a dominant part of North Carolina’s energy mix. You can read more about solar by visiting our Learn About page, here.
In addition to creating air pollution, North Carolina’s power plants produce nearly 5.5 million tons of toxic coal ash every year. The ash is mostly dumped in unlined pits near waterways where it can easily pollute water used for fishing, drinking, and recreation. Although North Carolina ranks 9th in the nation for coal ash generation, it lacks many basic safeguards to keep coal ash from polluting air, water, and endangering communities. North Carolina’s advocacy groups are leading the charge in taking legal action against Duke Energy calling for them to clean up their coal ash pollution. Check out this fact sheet to learn more about coal ash in North Carolina.
The state has clear opportunities for energy efficiency, solar, and wind, both on- and off-shore. You can read more about energy efficiency by visiting our Learn About page, here.
The North Carolina Public Utilities Commission regulates the three IOUs in North Carolina, Duke Energy, Progress Energy Carolinas and Dominion North Carolina Power which provide a combined total of 44,000 MW to the state. In 2007, Senate Bill 3 these utilities to adhere to a Renewable Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard. At only 12.5% with a 0.2% carve-out for solar by 2018, it is the smallest of the 30 mandatory state programs in the U.S. The utilities have more than satisfied the requirement with 106 MW of solar and planned solar installations – 77 MW from projects based in North Carolina – 29 MW in the form of renewable energy credits mainly from California. Renewable energy is funded through the voluntary GreenPower program. Customer contributions constitute the extent of the funding of premiums, and thus set a limitation or cap to wider diffusion throughout the state. The owners of small solar-electric systems enrolled in the program receive about 14 cents/kWh in premiums. North Carolina offers incentives – a tax credit equal to 35% of the cost of eligible renewable energy property and and exempts 80% of the appraised value of a “solar energy electric system” from property tax. Through its Sunsense Commercial PV Incentive Program, launched in 2009, Progress Energy offers 15 cents per kWh to non-residential customers in North Carolina and South Carolina for the electricity generated by a solar system 11-500 kW in size for a period of 20 years and limited to a total of 5 MW annually. To participate, commercial customers must apply, be approved and execute an interconnection agreement . In January 2011, Progress made Sunsense available to residential customers, limiting the total annual subscription to 1 MW. Systems owned and operated by another provider on a customer’s property are also eligible. You can read more about solar by visiting our Learn About page, here.
North Carolina has the best offshore wind resource in thecountry. A study managed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy suggeststhat enough area exists off the state’s coast to support approximately 42,000megawatts of offshore wind development – more than enough to meet all of thestate’s current energy demands. North Carolina is already the top wind energymanufacturing state in our region, employing more than 2,000 workers in thewind industry, and new opportunities could create thousands more jobs for NorthCarolinians. The state also has excellent onshore wind resources, and strongacademic and business communities supporting wind power. Learn more about NorthCarolina’s wind energy potential here.