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June 5, 2015 | Well, What Do You Know? Activism Works

A few weeks ago, we wrote a post begging the rest of our solar colleagues — heck, anyone interested in seeing solar succeed, for that matter — to get involved in state solar policy.

Our argument was essentially that what happens in the states can have a direct effect on solar expansion. And what do you know: In North Carolina, where the solar tax incentive was about to expire and destroy the state’s solar industry, Gov. Pat McCrory extended the renewable energy tax credit for one year in April.

Is one year ideal? No. But it’s better than having the solar industry in North Carolina screech to a halt on December 31.

And if you believe McCrory would have signed the extension without well-organized, positive and persistent lobbying by the ever-growing solar industry in the state, then you underestimate the power arrayed against solar growth.

The battle wasn’t easy. The forces organized against extending the credit were immense, ranging from an anti-solar House, which claimed the state couldn’t afford the incentives, to powerful utilities worried about losing their monopoly on electricity production. The anti-solar money poured in from pro-fossil fuel groups across the country. It seemed like an obvious loss for the solar industry.

But the solar industry didn’t lose — because the members of the fastest growing segment of the state’s economy wouldn’t let it lose.

In the past two years, 2,500 solar jobs have been added to the state of North Carolina. And these aren’t low paying service jobs — these are jobs that mirror the construction industry. These are jobs you with which you can support a family. And these workers weren’t going to take this threat to their livelihood lying down.

If solar activism can work in North Carolina, it can work anywhere. And with McCrory’s signature on SB 372, which will keep the solar industry booming for at least one more year in North Carolina, the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.

But as it turns out, our sources on the ground tell us that it’s not time to celebrate yet — another scurrilous bill is making its way through the North Carolina legislature right now, and it could do just as much — if not more — to scuttle the state’s solar industry before it even sets sail.

HB 332 severely limits the amount of renewable energy utilities must buy at market rates from consumers — meaning that the most effective mechanism for spreading solar, net-metering, would disappear from the North Carolinian landscape and leave solar consumers and companies gasping for air.

So let’s stay active and not let the fossil-fuel interests outhustle us. Together, we can make a difference. The solar workers in North Carolina have proved it once; now, it’s time to prove it again.