Can North Carolina Lawmakers Continue to Spur Clean Energy Investments?
As the only state in the Southeast with a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Standard (REPS), North Carolina is leading the way in attracting large corporate clean energy investments. But the standard, which requires electric utilities to procure and invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency, continues to be threatened.
In the last legislative session, state lawmakers introduced a proposal to limit the REPS, and pushed for other bills that impose barriers for renewable energy projects and change setback requirements for wind power. Fortunately, these bills didn’t gain traction, but they did create policy uncertainty for businesses and have the potential to hurt future investments.
Two weeks ago, representatives from major businesses presented before the state’s Energy Policy Council (EPC) to discuss the need for policy certainty and new policies that further clean energy investment. As some of the largest energy users in the state, the businesses, which included New Belgium Brewing, VF Corporation, Schneider Electric, Novozymes, Pfizer, Smithfield Foods, Food Lion, U.S. Marine Corps, and Nova Energy Consultants, play an important role in accelerating the state’s clean energy future.
During the EPC meeting, Pfizer, VF Corporation, Novozymes, and Schneider discussed their significant commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase their investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. These businesses have found they can reduce emissions while saving money and generating revenue.
From 2009 through 2015, VF Corporation—the makers of more than 30 iconic brands including The North Face, Vans, Timberland, Wrangler, Jansport, Nautica and Lee—reduced their global carbon use by 12.6 percent while growing their revenues 75 percent and increasing their building fleet by roughly 40 percent. They also saved more than $25 million as a result.
Novozymes—a global biotechnology company—is also committed to clean energy. At its U.S. headquarters in Franklinton, N.C., the company recently installed an anaerobic digester that uses the spent enzymes from its operations to meet a portion of its energy needs. This is part of the company’s broader commitment to improve energy efficiency by 30 percent and source 30 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy.
Arlan Peters, Head of Sustainability of Novozymes, said, “The question is not whether we are going to invest, but where are we going to invest.”
North Carolina lawmakers should listen to Peters’ message and consider tax credits, cost recovery, and other policies that reduce the complexity for companies looking to invest in the state.
VF Corporation recently made a 100% renewable energy commitment. It is now looking for states with supportive clean energy policies to procure renewable energy. During the EPC meeting, Letitia Webster, the company’s Global Vice President for Sustainability, called on lawmakers to open up the marketplace and create choices for companies through passage of the Energy Freedom Act (HB 245), which would let businesses obtain power from third parties through power purchase agreements.
Earlier this year, New Belgium Brewing opened their second brewery and tasting room in Ashville, N.C. The brewing company, like Sierra Nevada and others, recognizes the energy demands of its industry and has made significant commitments to policies that make it easy for breweries to produce their own energy, access clean energy from their utilities, and more efficiently use shared resources. That’s why both New Belgium and Sierra Nevada support North Carolina’s successful REPS—which requires utilities to meet 12.5 percent of their energy needs from renewable energy resources by 2021.
The state must maintain current policies and continue to pass forward-thinking energy proposals that allow for choice, encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency, and diversify the state’s energy resources. This will ensure that North Carolina can continue to lead the way in spurring clean energy investments.
Alli Gold Roberts is a Manger on Ceres’ Policy Team. Follow her on twitter @alligroberts.