North Carolina state lawmakers passed a two-year-long moratorium on the construction of new wind turbines early Friday morning.
If enacted, the measure will be the longest statewide halt on wind energy development ever passed in any state. Tennessee passed a year-long moratorium on new wind turbines in May.
Lawmakers say they want to avoid higher energy costs from additional wind turbines, and other critics say that wind power could interfere with military radar and flights. More than 575,000 North Carolinians are supported by Department of Defense programs, making it critical to the state’s economy.
“People don’t realize – the generals will tell me off record – how important this is,” Republican State Sen. Harry Brown told UtilityDive. “It’s the biggest threat to their bases of anything out there at this point.”
Thirteen Democrats joined the Republican majority to pass the bill, meaning that a veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper could be overridden.
Environmentalists reacted strongly to the bill, claiming that it would set back the state’s plans to promote green energy.
“NCSEA strongly opposes the Senate’s version of House Bill 589, and we call on all Senators to abandon these reckless and short-sighted changes in favor of passing the bill in its original form,” Ivan Urlaub, executive director of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, told The News & Observer.
The state legislature has been considering freezing North Carolina’s green energy mandate since 2015, because Republicans think it’s hurting job growth and causing energy prices to spike. The current freeze under discussion will keep the state’s green energy goal at 6 percent of total electricity production, preventing it from reaching the original goal of 12.5 percent green energy production by 2021.
When North Carolina passed its mandate in 2008, 28 other states had similar policies forcing more green energy onto the grid. But with more state legislatures in the hands of Republicans, green energy mandates are being either repealed or scaled back across the country. States like Kansas, Ohio, West Virginia, Texas, Michigan, New Mexico and Colorado have already repealed their renewable energy mandates.
Electricity rates in North Carolina increased 2.5 times faster than the national average because of the green energy mandate, according to research from the John Locke Foundation. The mandate has also cost the state’s economy $14.4 billion in income losses and 24,000 jobs annually because new wind power is much more expensive than existing coal, nuclear, or natural gas power.
The wind industry, on the other hand, says that green energy laws create jobs and diversify state energy portfolios. Wind proponents frequently cite the success of Texas’ mandate because the state now gets 10 percent of its electricity from wind.
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