North Carolina’s renewable energy mandate will cause a spike in electric bills and the loss of more than 43,000 jobs by the end of the decade, a new study contends.
Dozens of solar energy projects with thousands of panels glistening by the roadsides have been constructed in northeastern North Carolina in counties such as Pasquotank and Currituck. A 22,000-acre wind turbine farm – the largest in the southeastern United States – is under construction west of Elizabeth City.
North Carolina law requires that 12.5 percent of the energy produced comes from renewable power sources by 2021. It is the only mandate of its kind in the Southeast, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Virginia has a voluntary goal of 15 percent renewable energy by 2025.
Renewable energy opponents and supporters have debated each other for years and lobbied for state and federal legislation favorable to their cause. Both sides publish studies with statistics advocating their point of view.
The latest study’s conclusions resulted from calculations based on higher costs to consumers for renewable energy and the negative effects on business of higher power bills, among other factors. Timothy Considine, an economics and energy expert at the University of Wisconsin, conducted the study. The results were published by the Civitas Institute, a conservative nonprofit based in Raleigh. The institute did not fund the study.
North Carolina energy prices are expected to increase by 42 percent and the state could lose more than 43,277 jobs by 2020 because of the emphasis on renewable energy, according to Considine’s study. Overall economic losses in the state will be $7.1 billion in 2020, the study said.
The study focused on North Carolina but included some statistics from other states, including Virginia. Virginia could lose more than 18,779 jobs by 2020 if the state reaches its renewable energy goals, according to the study.
“Government mandates like the Renewable Portfolio Standard do far more harm than good to the people of our state,” said Brian Balfour, executive vice president of the Civitas Institute.
Renewable energy groups and businesses point to the economic and environmental benefits.
A report published by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association shows that between 2007 and 2015, North Carolina saw a total economic impact of $12 billion generated from $6.3 billion in clean energy investments. Research nonprofit RTI International in Raleigh did the report.
Clean energy development supported 82,403 full-time jobs in the same eight years.
The Pasquotank wind farm, with 104 turbines, created 240 construction jobs and will maintain about 14 permanent jobs. Sixty farmers leasing land for the wind farm will earn $6,000 annually per turbine. Pasquotank and Perquimans counties are expected to receive $250,000 annually in tax payments.
Considine’s study is one of the most complete available on the adverse economic impacts of renewable energy, Balfour said. Coal and natural gas energy costs approximately $38 per megawatt hour to produce, about one-third the cost of solar and wind power, according to charts in the study. Considine calculated energy costs using formulas that include construction, tax subsidies, operation, maintenance, duration and efficiency, among other factors.
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