Businesses and Republicans Help Shape NC Renewable Energy Policy

The Clean Energy Champions event, held virtually on Tuesday, paid tribute to the work done by GOP companies and lawmakers this year to advance renewable energy in North Carolina.  Here, solar panels are featured on the rooftop of 750 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.  at Chapel Hill.

The Clean Energy Champions event, held virtually on Tuesday, paid tribute to the work done by GOP companies and lawmakers this year to advance renewable energy in North Carolina. Here, solar panels are featured on the rooftop of 750 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. at Chapel Hill.

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Access to energy from renewable sources like solar power is an important part of North Carolina’s economic development, business leaders and lawmakers said at a clean energy event.

This year’s Clean Energy Champions ceremony, hosted by Chambers for Innovation & Clean Energy and Conservatives for Clean Energy, focused heavily on passing Bill 951, a comprehensive energy package forcing Duke Energy to orient its production towards renewable energies in the years to come.

There are 66 companies operating in North Carolina that aim to use 100% renewable energy at some point in the future. Nestlé, which along with Biogen received a Clean Energy Champion award for its lobbying efforts on HB951, is aiming for 100% clean energy by 2050.

“Part of what made the state of North Carolina so attractive to us to build our Eden facility was the fact that there was such a commitment to the renewable energy sector and partnering with businesses. like Nestlé on the path to 100% clean energy. Said Meg Villareal, director of policy and public affairs at Nestlé.

Nestlé is in the process of converting a former MillerCoors brewery in Eden into a pet food manufacturing plant, and Villareal said it was excited about the possibilities of electric trucks and forklifts.

Also this week, Toyota announced plans to build a multi-billion dollar hybrid and electric vehicle battery plant on the Greensboro-Randolph mega-site. Toyota plans to start production there in 2025, according to The News & Observer, and is expected to manufacture 12 million batteries there per year.

Toyota said access to renewable energy was a factor in its decision to build the plant in North Carolina. The automaker also said it is committed to powering the facility with energy from renewable sources.

With the entry into force of Law HB951, much of the attention has been focused on the NC Utilities Commission, which will guide how Duke Energy meets mandated carbon reductions.

Right now, for example, the commission has given Duke an April 1 deadline to draft an initial proposal on how it plans to cut carbon emissions by 70% from 2005 levels by. 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The company will hold three meetings with stakeholders as it develops policy.

“This is a very important opportunity for heavy energy consumers and taxpayers to engage with the commission, either formally or through letters of customer comment,” said Peter Ledford, General Counsel and Director of Policy of the NC Sustainable Energy Association.

NC Rep. John Szoka, a Republican from Fayetteville who is running for the United States House of Representatives, received a leadership award for his work on HB 951. Szoka worked on HB 589, the global energy bill of 2017 that threw up the bases this year’s legislation and spearheaded the closed-door conversations that shaped early versions of this year’s HB951.

Szoka urged professional organizations to have one-on-one conversations with lawmakers, describing how such a conversation changed his own beliefs about solar panels. When he was elected to the House, Szoka recalls, he believed the solar industry was supported by subsidies and tax credits.

It was a conversation with a lobbyist and the information that followed that led Szoka to understand that renewable energy is competitive with coal and natural gas.

Szoka said lawmakers “don’t understand what your businesses really need in terms of renewable energy and what your business goals are, so you need to educate them.”

This story was produced with financial support from 1Earth Fund, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism scholarship program. The N&O retains full editorial control of the work.

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Adam Wagner covers climate change and other environmental issues in North Carolina. Her work is produced with the financial support of 1Earth Fund, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism scholarship program. Wagner’s previous work at The News & Observer included covering the COVID-19 vaccine deployment and North Carolina’s recovery from recent hurricanes. He previously worked for the Wilmington StarNews.

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