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Energy & Environment

Big Tech Joins Fight Against NC Solar Changes

Thomas Kohler

The biggest companies in tech want top North Carolina lawmakers to back away from changing the state’s renewable energy laws. They join the solar energy industry and environmental advocates in their opposition to legislation that’s nearly reached the governor’s desk.

Apple, Facebook, and Google all run solar-powered data centers in Western North Carolina. The companies wrote to House speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, asking them not to freeze the amount of energy power companies have to get from renewable sources. It’s set to rise to 12.5 percent by 2020.

Legislation that’s passed the House and is moving through the Senate would keep it at the current 6 percent.

Along with another change in those bills, opponents say it could threaten the solar industry’s future.

“What you’ll see is a lot of solar companies that will no longer be able to do business,” says John Morrison of solar company EaglePlexus. “Because we’ve been forced to assume higher costs because of the changes in the bill, but we cannot charge more revenue for the product that we’re making.”

Morrison says they the lower requirements would mean less demand; the higher costs would come from the second change— a technical one. Utilities would no longer have to offer standard contracts with pre-set prices and terms to utility-scale solar companies, contracts that almost all solar development in the state have relied on.

Advocates of the changes say the contracts and the renewable standards subsidize the solar industry, decreasing competition at taxpayer expense.

In their letter, the tech companies argue those policies lower rates, and that they’re part of what drew them to North Carolina.