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Think Tank Takes: North Carolina rethinking renewable energy standard

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Opinion,Op-Eds

North Carolina legislators are considering repealing the state's renewable portfolio standard. The RPS requires utilities to obtain a specified percentage of their power from renewable sources by a certain date. Twenty-two of the 29 states with such mandates in place have considered changing those laws over the past two years.

The overall target for renewable energy includes technology-specific targets of 0.2 percent solar by 2018, 0.2 percent energy recovery from swine waste by 2018, and 900,000 megawatt-hours of electricity derived from poultry waste by 2014. These technology-specific criteria make North Carolina's standard more restrictive than other states because it does not allow renewables to compete with one another on a level playing field.

Supporters of the RPS say the mandates are necessary to reduce pollution, will lead to the creation of "green" jobs, and will only marginally increase electricity prices. However, there is little evidence the mandate will benefit the environment. Renewable sources like wind and solar technologies are intermittent and thus require fossil fuel generators to back them up. Running fossil fuel generators in this way can emit more pollutants than if they were used as primary power sources.

A joint report by the John Locke Foundation and Beacon Hill Institute found the mandate would cost electricity ratepayers $1.845 billion between 2008 and 2021. By 2021, North Carolinians' real disposable income will fall by $56.8 million and more than 3,500 jobs will be lost on net, even after accounting for any "green" jobs the standard may have created.

- Taylor Smith, Heartland Institute

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