6,000 Solar Energy Jobs in North Carolina by 2015, 14000 Jobs by 2020
RALEIGH, NCâ€“Recently Reps. Tom Murry (R-Wake), Jim Crawford (D-Granville), Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe) and Ruth Samuelson (R- Mecklenburg) introduced House Bill 495, The Solar Jobs Bill. When passed, the bill will create thousands of new solar energy jobs in all regions of North Carolina.
Job estimates for North Carolinaâ€™s rapidly growing solar energy industry currently totals nearly 2,000 employees at approximately 170 companies. Passage of this bill will increase market demand and competition, which will continue the industryâ€™s expansion by creating 4,000 new solar energy jobs in our state â€“ resulting in a total of 6,000 solar jobs by 2015.
An identical bill, Senate Bill 473, which was introduced in the Senate is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson), Pete Brunstetter (R-Forsyth) and Josh Stein (D-Wake).
â€œThe passage of the REPS in 2007 and resulting success of the North Carolinaâ€™s clean energy market has created the rapid start-ups and expansions of solar businesses from installers to developers to manufacturers â€“ but these companies and employees now hang in the balance waiting for legislators to pass this much-needed bill,â€ said Ivan Urlaub of the NC Sustainable Energy Association, a non-profit that represents individuals, businesses, government and non-profit members. â€œSolar power is a home-grown source of power that is making the cost of electricity for all of us more stable and secure as our competitive solar industry continues to rapidly drive down the cost of solar power. Legislators can create jobs and improve our economy by passing House Bill 495 into law this session.â€
In 2007, the NC General Assembly adopted the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) as part of Senate Bill 3, which requires 12.5 percent of retail electric sales to be generated with renewable energy resources and low-cost energy saving solutions by 2021. The REPS has been the driving force behind the tremendous growth of our stateâ€™s clean energy economy â€“ a 22 percent job growth last year (mid-2009 through mid-2010), which is even more substantial during a time when other industries were losing thousands of jobs due to one of the worst economic recessions. Working with our electric utilities, North Carolinaâ€™s clean energy industries â€“ including solar, wind, biomass, smart grid and energy efficiency â€“ have delivered massive cost reductions, created thousands of jobs, improved energy security, created new export markets, and are ahead of schedule in complying with our stateâ€™s REPS law.
In fact, our stateâ€™s utilities have well exceeded the early requirements for solar under the REPS, which means an extremely limited market for NCâ€™s solar businesses through at least 2015. In response to calls by solar business leaders and employees across NC expressing concerns about the current REPSâ€™ cap on additional solar business opportunities and growth, legislators have introduced House Bill 495. The bill will increase the solar requirement to 0.4% of utilitiesâ€™ retail electric sales by 2018, and thus allow these companies to retain and hire new employees, while expanding their businesses and completing more clean energy projects.
According to the NC Sustainable Energy Association and feedback from solar companies located across our state, passage of The Solar Jobs Bill (House Bill 495/Senate Bill 473) will retain their current workforce and create new solar energy jobs totaling approximately 6,000 jobs by 2015, and 14,000 jobs by 2020. These jobs will include many different sectors up and down the solar energy supply chain, such as installers, construction, services (ex. attorneys, finance, maintenance), R&D, and manufacturers.
Since the General Assembly passed the REPS law in 2007, North Carolinaâ€™s competitive renewable energy and energy efficiency industries now employ more than 12,500 people (conservative estimates) at approximately 1,800 companies, which are found in all regions of our state. Currently, there are close to170 companies that focus a majority of their work on solar energy, which employ nearly 2,000 people. (Source: NC Sustainable Energy Associationâ€™s 2010 Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Industries Census; and NCSEA Databases.)
The increased market competition within the solar sector and the resulting solar projects installed has driven the costs of solar down by close to 50% since 2007. If House Bill 495 becomes law, solar power is expected to continue its cost decline. Nationally, North Carolina currently ranks #9 for total solar photovoltaic capacity and #8 for solar water heating capacity, including being home to the three of the largest solar thermal water heating installations in the United States (located near Asheville, a large poultry feeding operation, and at Camp Lejeune) and one of the largest solar farms on the East Coast (Davidson County).
Furthermore, according to a study commissioned in 2006 by the NC Utilities Commission and conducted by La Capra Associates, ratepayers in NC would pay $500 million less over the next 10 years if our state meets 7.5 percent of our retail electric needs with renewable energy resources and at least 2.5 percent with energy saving solutions. This was estimated by comparing the anticipated cost of renewable energy and energy efficiency to meeting our electricity needs with new conventional energy resources. When legislators and negotiators created the REPS in 2007, the potential cost savings identified by the Commission study was a major deciding factor. Since 2007, not just solar, but nearly all renewable energy resources, are costing less than originally projected, meaning North Carolina ratepayers could potentially avoid more than the estimated $500 million by 2018, even if the NC General Assembly increases the cap on solar market demand this year by passing House Bill 495.
Passage of Senate Bill 3, including the REPS, in 2007, was the result of state funded studies and negotiations spanning two years between utilities, consumers, manufacturers, and organizations like NCSEA with legislators and regulators. In addition to requiring 12.5 percent of our electricity come from renewable energy and energy efficiency sources, another significant measure in the 2007 law ended the state’s previous ban on a utility power plant pre-payment process known as “construction work in progress” (CWIP). CWIP is a significant regulatory change allowing electric utilities to charge their customers for the cost of financing and building new power plants during construction and does not require the utility to reimburse customers if the utility does not finish construction.
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