North Carolina’s Current Energy Environment
North Carolina’s energy mix includes nuclear energy (32 percent), natural gas (30 percent), coal (26 percent) and renewables (10 percent) based on 2017 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In the future, coal will decline as a percentage of North Carolina’s total energy mix and renewables and natural gas will increase. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will carry natural gas through eight eastern North Carolina counties when it is completed in 2020.
North Carolina’s energy mix is influenced by actions at the federal and state levels. President Trump has reversed several energy policies of his predecessor. For example, the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement and President Trump eliminated the Clean Power Plan, which set limits on carbon pollution from power plants. While these policies have dampened federal attention on climate change, military bases are now spending much more time on climate-related impacts. Indeed, North Carolina’s Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune is on the list of most vulnerable military bases from climate change because of rising seas and tidal flooding.
North Carolina has a highly-regulated, monopoly-controlled electricity market where investor-owned utilities (IOUs) make most of the decisions about where our power comes from. North Carolina does not have a free market where energy technologies can enter and compete on price and quality. Third parties then cannot sell energy in North Carolina directly to businesses and consumers unless it is within a small window of opportunity made available in the energy statutes. North Carolina’s military installations operate within this statewide environment and focus their energy initiatives in accordance with the state regulatory environment. Any energy projects – including renewable energy projects – are coordinated with the military to ensure they do not conflict or interfere with the military mission. Sustaining our military installations is North Carolina’s primary goal.
Against this backdrop, North Carolina has passed two critical pieces of energy legislation in the past decade that frame its regulatory climate:
Through North Carolina’s commitment to creating a cleaner energy future, North Carolina’s clean energy industry now includes 1,171 clean energy firms and 43,238 clean energy jobs. In addition, North Carolina has $14.2 billion in annual revenue, an increase of 124 percent from 2016-2018. The majority of those renewable energy investments were made in the state’s most economically distressed counties in the rural parts of North Carolina.
Finally, in addition to these two landmark state energy laws, in October 2018, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order 80, which outlined North Carolina’s commitment to address climate change and transition to a clean energy economy. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality will develop a clean energy plan in October 2019 and the N.C. Department of Transportation must increase the number of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) to at least 80,000 by 2025.
There are several other important facts in North Carolina’s energy landscape:
North Carolina’s prominence as a solar state includes national caliber solar developers and a varied supply chain including module and array manufacturers. The state is also home to a smart grid sector with over 1,000 jobs, micro-grid demonstration, advanced training programs, and highly regarded product manufacturing and research entities. North Carolina has a prominent building efficiency sector with over 11,000 jobs, many LEED certified buildings, and strong growth potential.
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