New study shows a decade of progress positions North Carolina to take clean energy to the next level

Media Contacts
Drew Ball

Environment North Carolina

Since 2009, North Carolina has seen explosive growth in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun and a promising amount of growth in the wind energy sector, according to a new report released today by Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center. The report also highlights advances in the use of energy storage and electric vehicles. According to the data, North Carolina ranked 9th among the states for improvements in electricity energy efficiency programs.

“North Carolina has seen the solar industry become a home-grown success story. Our potential to secure much more of our energy from the sun and wind is incredible, but only if we seize that opportunity,” said Drew Ball from Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center. “This transition to clean energy will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which is costing us our clean air, clean water, and climate. Our study comes at a critical time when scientists are telling us that we’re now experiencing the hottest years ever recorded.”

The report, Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future, provides a state-by-state assessment of the growth of key technologies needed to power the nation with clean renewable energy, including wind, solar, energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles. North Carolina ranked 30th for wind and 3rd for solar growth.

“North Carolina has shown significant progress on clean energy development, acting as a national leader on this vital transition,” said Daniel Parkhurst from Clean Air Carolina. “We must continue to lead the way towards a sustainable future to ensure a healthy future for our kids.”

The report describes the factors that caused rapid growth in each category since 2009. They include innovative policies, improved technologies and lower costs — all of which suggest the potential for continued development in the years to come. 

Innovative policies are critical to helping hasten the transition to a clean energy economy and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently released a draft Clean Energy Plan to comply with Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80, issued in October of last year. The plan calls for the state to reduce power sector greenhouse gas emissions between 60% and 70% by 2030, relative to 2005 levels, and work towards zero emissions by 2050. Public comments on the plan are due this coming September 9.

“The Clean Energy Plan is the result of an in-depth stakeholder process, with recommendations for the steps North Carolina needs to take to modernize our power grid, create economic opportunities and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Sushma Masemore, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and State Energy Director with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. “We are already close to meeting the Paris Agreement targets for emissions reductions, but there is more we can do to transition our state to a clean energy future.”

The report comes as a diverse group of U.S. cities, states, corporations and institutions are committing to 100 percent renewable energy.  There are now six states that have made commitments to 100 percent clean electricity, but unfortunately not North Carolina. American cities, counties, and towns across the country, led by a mix of Republican and Democratic mayors, have committed to that goal, including municipalities across the North Carolina, like Buncombe County, Durham, Apex, Hillsborough, and Wake County. In addition, more than 180 major companies, including Bank of America, Google, Anheuser-Busch, and PNC have committed to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy.

“North Carolina continues to be a national leader in solar, while also considering greater opportunities for battery storage and electric vehicles which can serve to complement solar electricity generation,” said Autumn Proudlove, Senior Manager of Policy Research with the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center. “Most states across the country, including North Carolina, are currently examining a variety of policy and regulatory issues that will help these technologies reach their maximum potential.”