Poll finds support for renewable energy

Six in 10 North Carolina residents support tax breaks and other incentives for solar energy, says a poll released Thursday by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association.

The poll of 803 voters found broad support for renewable energy and for expanding the number of companies that can sell electricity. State law now allows only utilities such as Duke Energy can sell power to consumers.

The poll found that 86 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of political independents and 77 percent of Republicans said the state should seek more alternative energy sources, NCSEA said.

Solar energy is North Carolina’s rising star. Boosted by a renewable-energy mandate, tax credits and falling panel prices, the state ranks fourth nationally for installed solar capacity, the Solar Energy Industries Association says.

Legislation introduced last year, but not enacted, would have frozen the state’s renewable-energy portfolio standard. The mandate requires utilities to produce the equivalent of 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources or energy efficiency by 2021.

Seven in ten of those questioned for the NCSEA poll said the law is a good idea.

The poll found 48 percent with unfavorable views of Duke Energy in the aftermath of its February spill of coal ash into the Dan River. But while solar, wind and other renewable energies found heavy support, nearly half also support coal fuel.

Nearly nine in 10 people supported allowing other companies to sell electricity from renewable sources, a restriction that chafes green-energy developers.

Legislation introduced last year would have allowed military bases to buy power from non-utility sources, said NCSEA lobbyist Betsy McCorkle.

“We want to allow some measure of competition,” she said.

The association will also lobby legislators to protect North Carolina’s 35 percent tax credits for renewable energy investments.

NCSEA says renewable energy employed more than 18,000 people last year in North Carolina, a 20 percent increase from 2012.