New report shows North Carolina leadership through decade of U.S. renewable energy progress

Media Contacts
Drew Ball

Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

Raleigh- North Carolina ranks 2nd in the nation for growth in solar energy production since 2010, according to a new report by Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center, released today at a virtual press conference. The project, Renewables on the Rise 2020, documents and compares the growth of five key clean energy technologies in each state over the past decade: solar power, wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles. North Carolina has seen a 378-fold increase in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun since 2010. However, the report also shows Arizona within striking distance of taking our number two spot within the next year. 

“The incredible growth of solar energy production in North Carolina is positive proof that we are in the midst of clean energy’s ascent as the power of the twenty-first century,”said Drew Ball, Director of Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center. “The gains we’ve seen, especially in solar energy, wind energy, and energy efficiency should give North Carolinians the confidence we need to aim even higher and continue picking up the pace.” 

Beyond top-ranking growth in solar energy, North Carolina saved 1.7 times as much energy in 2018 as it did in 2010 through energy efficiency. Innovative policies, combined with technological advances and declining costs have played a key role in driving adoption, according to the report. However, low-hanging fruit remains and the need to lean into energy savings is growing more important every year.

“This is particularly important to me, because I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a world ravaged by the most severe impacts of climate change,” said Jimmy Thompson, owner of Sol Electric LLC. “I go to work every day knowing I’m contributing to a cleaner, healthier future for all.”

“We need a really diverse mix of carbon free technologies to get us to where we need to go” said Katherine Kollins, President of the Southeastern Wind Coalition. “We’re starting to see glimmers of hope for wind in North Carolina with some of the commitments that Duke Energy is making and offshore [wind] really starting to move its way down the coast. We are really excited for both land-based and offshore wind here in North Carolina,” 

In addition to highlighting states that have made the most progress in adopting renewable energy technologies, the study also shows the rapid gains achieved overall nationally. In 2019, the U.S. produced 30 times more solar power and more than triple the amount of wind energy than it did in 2010. In addition to the growth in renewable energy, utility scale battery storage increased 20-fold since 2010, energy consumption per person declined thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and more than one million electric vehicles have been sold in the U.S. There were nearly 330,000 electric vehicles sold in the U.S. In 2019, up from virtually none just a decade earlier

“This report serves as a timely reminder that clean energy technologies are rising to the occasion, and are already delivering for millions of Americans and North Carolinians,” Ball said. “We are so much closer to the clean, renewable energy future we need than we were ten years ago, and we must keep pushing to ensure that the next decade brings us even further.”