Nebraska Capitol Focus

North Carolina’s flourishing solar industry and its boost to our economy could be hurt by congressional inaction.

Let’s give credit where it’s due. Did you know North Carolina ranks second in the U.S. for installed solar energy? Already, enough North Carolina solar energy has been installed to power 676,000 homes.

We are also among the top 10 states when it comes to our tally of solar jobs, with more than 6,700 North Carolinians employed in this flourishing industry. Yet North Carolina does not get praised enough on a national or local level for the solar-energy juggernaut we’ve become.

When I served in the state legislature, I was a voice for clean energy, including solar power, an abundant energy source backed by an industry that has brought $8.13 billion in investment to North Carolina. As a lawmaker, I took a stand for these jobs because they deliver economic development opportunities for rural and urban areas alike.

As a longtime supporter of pro-renewable energy policies that have encouraged our state’s path toward cleaner fuel, I can’t help but speak up now that congressional decisions could jeopardize the industry. The federal solar investment tax credit, or SITC, could begin to sunset starting in January — but only if Congress lets that happen.

We have so much to lose. Right now, assuming the SITC remains, the future is sunny for North Carolina solar. We rank fifth in the country in our expected growth in solar power capacity over the coming five years, and 287 solar companies are located in the state. It should not come as a surprise that a technology that delivers clean, homegrown energy — the cost of which has plummeted by 32% in the last five years — is rapidly growing in popularity here.

Small and medium-sized solar businesses are starting up routinely in our state. For example, North Carolina native and Army veteran Roderick Robinson recently launched his company Black Claw Energy in Greensboro. His business helps other businesses adopt sustainable practices as part of their brands, brings electric vehicle-charging stations to locations across North Carolina and helps homeowners go solar to reduce their energy costs.

The federal SITC has been around long enough that we do not have to guess its impact. We already know it’s getting the job done for North Carolina. Since the SITC’s inception in 2006, the solar industry has experienced a meteoric rise, with 10,000% growth. This eye-popping figure should more than explain the bipartisan congressional support for the tax credit over the years.

The time is now for state leaders to make their voices heard on this issue in Washington and continue the long-standing economic growth generated by the solar industry in North Carolina. By providing the right incentives and access to market, we’ll enable our state to continue to lead on clean energy for decades to come.

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Chris Malone is a former Republican state representative from Wake Forest.

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