While state officials fight it, North Carolina continues down Clean Power path

Guest Blog | March 26, 2015 | Climate Change, Energy Policy

This guest blog, authored by Luis Martinez, was originally posted on NRDC’s Switchboard Blog.

New analysis by the Natural Resource Defense Council shows that North Carolina’s Clean Energy Future is strong. Our analysis shows that by continuing its transition away from coal and meeting the requirements of its clean energy standard, North Carolina will achieve about 90% of the reductions required by the Clean Power Plan with nine years left until the 2030 deadline. And renewed commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy will help the state achieve the goals while generating more jobs and less pollution. So while some naysayers, including the head of North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR), continue to work actively to derail the plan, it will help the state continue on a path it set for itself well over a decade ago.

The Clean Power Plan from the Environmental Protection Agency limits carbon emissions from power plants with the goal of curbing climate change by transitioning towards clean energy. It sets pollution reduction targets and gives states both ample time and plenty of flexibility to achieve those goals. In North Carolina, as I’ve written before, we started down this path a long time ago with the introduction of the Clean Smokestacks Act. That Act was very similar to the Clean Power Plan, in that it set pollution reduction goals and gave the utilities plenty of time and flexibility to meet them. The result is that, over a decade later, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants have decreased over 80% without any electric reliability impacts and with significant economic and health benefits.

Additionally, North Carolina continued its journey towards clean energy by requiring utilities to source an increasing share of their electricity from clean energy sources. The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard put the state in a path towards having 12.5% of the electricity in North Carolina come from renewable energy or energy efficiency by 2021. Yet again the state is well on its way to meeting this goal with plenty of time left and with significant economic and health benefits. As a new Duke University report tells us the economic benefits from solar energy are significant and widespread. Additionally, North Carolina has become a leader in that industry ranking second, behind only California for installed solar capacity in 2014. The state also moved into fourth place nationally on total installed solar capacity, only behind California, Arizona and New Jersey. And the state also ranks in eight place nationally in total solar jobs.

And yet today [Tues., March 17, 2015], like he did back in November of 2013, Donald van der Vaart, now head of North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR), will go before the House Energy and Commerce Committee of the US Congress and do his part to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward on the Clean Power Plan. But North Carolina began this journey towards a strong clean energy economy well over a decade ago. We are now reaping the benefits of moving forward boldly and we know that with enough time and flexibility we will meet the Clean Power Plan goal. NRDC’s new analysis confirms that the Clean Power Plan will help North Carolina continue leading the way towards a clean energy economy while improving public health, fostering new economic development, and helping to stabilize our climate.

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