Let’s make a declaration of energy independence

Ruth Samuelson
Ruth Samuelson

From Ruth Samuelson, a former N.C. representative from Mecklenburg County:

This past weekend we honored the day our nation declared independence more than 200 years ago. We enjoyed our parades and fireworks, so now let’s also celebrate a different kind of revolution – an energy revolution – that’s underway all across America.

Driven by innovation and entrepreneurship, the cost of renewable energy has fallen faster and further than anyone could have predicted just 10 years ago. As a result, we are developing secure, competitive clean energy at a record pace. Last year, the U.S. added more homegrown solar and wind than any other electricity source.

North Carolina’s clean energy policies, including our Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard, have made our state a leader in this clean energy revolution. Last year, North Carolina ranked second in the nation for the amount of solar power we installed. Our growing clean energy industry is boosting our economy to the tune of $6.3 billion and putting 23,000 North Carolinians to work. And by reducing the need for what is often expensive and polluting traditional power infrastructure, we are saving energy consumers more than $650 million. Sunshine and wind are free, after all!

North Carolina families, churches and businesses should be able to use those affordable homegrown resources to meet our own power needs, but we have outdated laws standing in the way.

Across the country, most consumers who use solar energy today choose to do so through third-party options that remove the barrier of upfront cost. North Carolina is one of only a handful of states with laws that prevent our consumers from taking advantage of these same options.

In states where they are allowed, these third-party options have proven popular among consumers who want more control over their utility bills and energy choices. According to GTM Research, across the U.S. two out of every three new residential solar installations in 2013 were third-party owned systems.

The model is also often a preferred option for local government agencies, schools, the military and corporate leaders like Walmart.

There is no reason to delay in bringing third-party energy sales to North Carolina. An overwhelming majority of North Carolina residents from across the political spectrum are strongly in favor of renewable energy. Polling conducted for Conservatives for Clean Energy found that 3 out of 4 Republicans and Democrats alike support third-party energy sales. It’s long past time to connect North Carolinians with the clean energy options we want.

Let’s declare “energy independence” and build a stronger, more secure North Carolina. We should have the freedom to produce our own power on own property with solar and other technologies if we so choose.