Those in North Carolina’s solar industry will have their fingers crossed as the North Carolina House and Senate approach a compromise on next year’s budget. The state’s solar tax credit is set to expire at the end of the year. The industry claims without an extension—and with other changes lawmakers are considering—North Carolina solar will stall.
North Carolina put more solar energy online last year than any state except California.
One reason: The state’s 35-percent solar tax credit, one of the most generous in the nation.
Duke Energy’s renewable energy subsidiary just announced it will build an 80 megawatt solar farm in Edgecombe County, one of the largest in the eastern U.S.
“That project definitely is enabled by the state tax credit,” says Greg Wolf, president of Duke Energy Renewables. “The state tax credit is important in the economics to ultimately have the price be as attractive as it is to our customers, but it’s not the only driving force.”
Wolf says his company would keep building in North Carolina should the credit expire at the end of the year, as its set to do and as his parent company has—in the past—supported. Others might not.
“What you’ll see is a lot of solar companies that will no longer be able to do business,” predicts John Morrison of solar company Ecoplexus.
Morrison says that’s especially true if lawmakers go through with other changes, like freezing the state’s renewable energy requirements.
Those in favor of expiration say solar is a mature industry that no longer needs state subsidies, to the tune of $125 million in 2014.
Cumberland County Republican Representative John Szoka discussed it on Charlotte Talks in May.
“The temperature of the legislature—and I agree with this—is to delete most tax credits and let people spend more of their own money, rather than sending it to the state and letting us figure out how to spend it,” Szoka said.
Supporters of the credit held a press conference at the state capitol on Thursday.
“The polio vaccine’s a mandate; anybody here think that’s a bad idea?” asked Representative Charles Jeter, a Mecklenburg County Republican. “We have to understand that just because it’s a mandate, just because it’s a subsidy, just because it’s a tax credit doesn’t mean it’s bad. We have to take everything for its business case.”
The debate in North Carolina is a prelude to one that will play out nationally next year—when the federal tax credit is set to expire.