Growing North Carolina’s clean energy resources

Thursday, July 28, 2016 - 12:00 am

By Jenny Kelvington

Clean, affordable energy protects our environment, allows our state to attract and maintain job-creating businesses, and is a vital part of North Carolina’s all-of-the-above energy strategy. At the July meeting of the Energy Policy Council, representatives from companies across the state joined a panel discussion about energy costs and sustainability efforts. Members of the panel agreed that clean, reliable and cost-efficient energy is important to their businesses.

Solar energy is one of the first resources that comes to mind during any discussion of renewable energy. Last year, North Carolina generated 140 percent more electric power with solar than it did in the previous year, and placed among the four highest states for solar energy generation in the nation. While this is impressive, solar energy provided just 1.5 percent of all electricity generated in the state during 2015. That’s why it’s important to consider other clean energy sources as we continue to grow our solar power generation.

Consider nuclear – half of the electricity consumed in North Carolina is generated by carbon-free, zero emissions power generation facilities, and more than 90 percent of this emissions-free electricity is generated by eleven nuclear reactors in the Carolinas. Approximately two-thirds of this nuclear power is allocated to residents, commercial establishments and industry in our state.

North Carolina electric utilities have added advanced control technology to their fossil fuel generation sources. Thanks to this addition and a significant shift from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas, the electric utility sector has reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which is an ozone precursor, by more than 80 percent since 2000. This move to cleaner energy has had a positive impact on North Carolina’s air quality, with all 100 counties now meeting all federal ambient air quality standards.

North Carolina’s electricity rates are affordable compared to the region and the nation, making energy costs attractive to the business community. The most recent U.S. Energy Information Administration report shows our average commercial rates are 9th lowest, average industrial rates are 19th lowest and average residential rates are 23rd lowest in the country. By diversifying our energy resources, North Carolina can maintain its low energy costs for consumers and businesses, and grow all energy resources that protect our environment.

For more information about North Carolina’s energy resources, visit http://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/energy-mineral-land-resources/energy-group