Solar energy is booming. In just the last three years, America’s solar photovoltaic capacity tripled. In 2014, a third of the United States’ new installed electric capacity came from solar power. And in three states – California, Hawaii, and Arizona– solar power now generates more than 5 percent of total electricity consumption.
In December 2015, world leaders will convene in Paris to negotiate an international agreement to address the serious threat of global warming. As the country responsible for more climate-changing pollution in the atmosphere than any other, the United States has a moral obligation to lead the world into action.
The best way to lead is by example. And, as this report demonstrates, the United States is doing just that. By following through and fully implementing policies already enacted at the state and federal levels – including the Clean Power Plan, the first national policy to limit climate pollution from power plants – the nation can reduce carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuel combustion (the leading cause of global warming) by 27 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In other words, these policies can prevent as much as 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution annually by 2025, more than the annual emissions of the entire nation of Germany, the world’s sixth largest polluter.
Solar energy is on the rise in the United States. At the end of the first quarter of 2015, more than 21,300 megawatts of cumulative solar electric capacity had been installed around the country, enough to power more than 4.3 million homes. The rapid growth of solar energy in the United States is the result of forward-looking policies that are helping the nation reduce its contribution to global warming and expand its use of local renewable energy sources.
One policy in particular, net energy metering, has been instrumental in the growth of solar energy, particularly on homes and businesses. Net energy metering enables solar panel owners to earn fair compensation for benefits they provide to other users of the electricity grid, and makes “going solar” an affordable option for more people. Net energy metering works by providing customers a credit on their electric bill that offsets charges for energy consumption. As solar energy has taken off in recent years, however, utilities and other special interests have increasingly attacked net metering as an unjustified “subsidy” to solar users.
On behalf of the organizations, businesses, and individuals signed below – representing tens of thousands of residents - we urge you to make a strong commitment to capturing the immense wind energy resource off our shores. Climate change poses an urgent threat to coastal and low-lying communities, and North Carolina is no exception. To protect our health, wildlife, and economy – and the quality of life of future generations, we must reduce pollution and launch a new clean energy chapter for America.
Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.