#ncga: Solar regs debate has GOP chattering

Ms. Leslie, Binky’s boss over at WRAL, decided to go out and do a little of that reportin’ thing: 

[…] The solar industry has blossomed in North Carolina 14771577-1436831790-640x360since lawmakers granted solar farms tax breaks nine years ago as part of renewable energy standards that require utilities to get a portion of their power from renewable sources.

North Carolina ranks fourth nationally in solar energy capacity, and the industry employs about 5,600 people in the state, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Capitol Broadcasting Co., the parent company of WRAL, operates a solar farm near Garner.

Now, critics of solar are trying to rein in the industry by rewriting state laws, and the head of the state Department of Environmental Quality is leading the charge, pushing the state Energy Policy Council to recommend some major changes.

One proposal discussed Wednesday would require a state permit for any new solar farm. That would give the state the final say on whether a property owner can lease his or her land for solar. It would also require a bond for eventual removal of the equipment.

“We are a huge solar state, and we have to put our big boy pants on and treat it as such,” Secretary of Environmental Quality Donald van der Vaart told the Energy Policy Council.[…]

What is it with these Raleigh types and ‘big boy pants’?  Folks in the House and Senate have been trying to kill off a state energy mandate that jacks up bills for countless utility customers across the state, as well as end state subsidies for solar energy projects.  These efforts have been bogged down in the Senate mainly by Republicans Andy Wells, Brent Jackson, and Jerry Tillman — who have all  been showered with cash from solar industry lobbyists. 

Wells has been quite vocal recently about his displeasure with solar opponents and the proposed state regulations.   Recently he got into an email discussion / debate with, among others, state Rep. Chris Millis:

On Mon, Feb 8, 2016 at 2:01 PM, Andy Wells wrote:

It’s an old story that repeats itself throughout history – a flamboyant leaderAndyWellsColor_250 exhorts a suffering people to join his crusade to overthrow a ruthless dictator and win their freedom. But then, as soon as the revolution is over, it turns out the new leader is not what he seemed. He wanted power for himself, not freedom for the people.

For years conservatives, standing for two fundamental principles, have battled tax incentives that favor one business over others. We have argued those incentives are examples of government interfering with the free market and ‘picking winners and losers.’

Along the way, additional political leaders (and their allied political groups) joined in, using almost precisely the same arguments while specifically criticizing the state incentives for solar energy.

For a while, it sounded like we were all allies in the conservative cause.

But then, everything changed. After the solar incentives were eliminated, the second group dropped the cloak of standing up for free markets and, contrary to conservative principles, set out to use government to tilt the market to suit its purposes.

How? By proposing to pass a law that said no farmer could rent his land to a solar farm without the government’s permission. In other words, they want to use government to accomplish their goal of stopping solar energy.

That is not my idea of freedom. Or of protecting the free market. The government has no business getting into the business of telling a farmer how he can or cannot use his land.


For the record, this guy — with all his conservative sounding complaints — has voted FOR all of these incentives and the like. 

Now, here’s Millis:

On Feb 8, 2016, at 2:31 PM, Chris Millis wrote:

Andy, thanks for your commentary.

Please note that I personally, and legislatively, have no issue with any form of energy production (including solar within the so called “renewable” umbrella). What I do have issue with is being a citizen, a ratepayer, and legislator in a state that mandates and subsidizes specific forms of energy production such as solar.cm

My stance has always been simple: get state government out of the way, and do not force our taxpayers and energy ratepayers to subsidize special interests (like solar) through tax policies or statute…a lot like the free market you speak to…

With that said, I have been intimately involved legislatively to get state government away from mandating and subsidizing energy production (specifically renewable – since we has a state do not mandate or subsidize any other form).

In being apart of this effort I have yet to become aware of the “group” you mention in your email that “set out to use government to tilt the market to suit its purposes”. Just because I don’t know about it does not make it untrue but I would greatly appreciate more information as I would much like to be informed of such so I can renounce their efforts along with you. I must add that the problem is not the choice of the farmer, but the state government hand in mandating the production and subsidizing its development to distort the viability to the farmer in the first place.

Also, in being up to my eyebrows in legislation concerning this matter, I have never seen a provision floated in the General Assembly that would say “no farmer could rent his land to a solar farm without the government’s permission”. Any further information on this statement would be appreciated as well…

I have a great deal of respect for the principles you espouse but I would appreciate further information to avoid my current view of one beating up on a straw man to divert attention away from the real problem: the problem of North Carolina being the only state in the southeast that mandates and subsidizes forms of energy production chosen by the shallow wisdom of the political class.

Thanks again for your email and your time in providing further clarification. Have a great week and stay warm during the cold nights ahead.