Apple, Google and Facebook came out today in opposition to a North Carolina bill that would put a hold on the state’s renewable energy target.
The three internet giants have a strong presence in North Carolina. They have reportedly invested more than $2.7 billion in data centers in the state and support some 200 jobs.
The three brands have also invested heavily in clean energy to power their energy-intensive data facilities. Apple, for instance, built a 20-megawatt solar farm on 100 acres next to its data center in Maiden, N.C.
In a letter sent to both houses of the state legislature today, existing energy policies were listed as one of the main reasons Apple, Google and Facebook chose to locate their facilities in N.C.
“Alterations risk undermining the state's almost decade-long commitment to renewable power and energy efficiency,” reads the letter, submitted by TechNet on behalf of the internet companies. “We support a comprehensive review, in which we would like to participate. In the meantime, to avoid creating new risk and uncertainty for our businesses, we urge you to keep in place the existing, well-balanced and meticulously examined energy policy.”
Under H332, North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) would stall at 6 percent of retail electricity sales, instead of steadily increasing to 12.5 percent by 2021.
The bill would also reduce the size of renewable energy projects that qualify for a standard contract with utilities from 5 megawatts to 100 kilowatts. These contracts are designed to boost the market for renewables by simplifying the negotiation process.
Sponsor Rep. Mike Hager (R) initially introduced the legislation to address cost recovery for natural-gas utilities for the construction of natural-gas infrastructure. The amendment to North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard was added later. The bill passed in the House and was sent to the Senate in late April.
Language on reforming the REPS contained in H332 also exists in HB 760, the state’s omnibus regulatory reform bill, which is currently making its way through the state Senate. A third bill with the same language (HB 681) failed in the state House in late April.
The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) and the national group Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) oppose the proposed changes to REPS. Several AEE member companies working in North Carolina’s nascent but growing solar market issued statements against the “job-killing” legislation.
“H332 is unfair to the entire ecosystem of local businesses who supply solar in N.C. This bill threatens many of the 23,000 jobs and the $4.8 billion in annual revenue that have been created in N.C. thanks to the REPS,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier, director of government affairs for SunEdison. “It would disqualify many solar projects from longstanding benefits that make clean, renewable energy valuable for owners, on grounds that are arbitrary and capricious. Changing the rules of the road like this is anti-business and anti-consumer.”
“North Carolinians have expressed a clear desire for a clean energy future,” said Will Craven, director of public affairs at SolarCity. “A vote for this bill is essentially a vote against the interests of North Carolina residents who want to enjoy cleaner energy.”
Last week, H332 was “pushed through” the Senate Finance Committee, according to the Raleigh paper News & Observer. The committee chair, Senator Bob Rucho (R), reportedly cut off a discussion on the bill prematurely, and called for a voice vote instead of a head count. Several lawmakers, including two Republicans, have openly complained about the way Sen. Rucho handled the legislation.
The fate of H332 is uncertain. The bill could now make another pass through the Finance Committee, be referred to another committee, or head straight to the Senate for a full chamber vote.