By Forest Langhorne, Tufts University
At Senator Mark Warner’s Virginia Energy Policy Forum (VEPF), a series of speakers, including U.S. Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz, presented updates on existing ideas and technology, both known and emerging, that could help Virginia advance the volume of solar and other renewable energy produced in the state.
One of these discussions involved comparisons of North Carolina and Virginia energy policy. For example, Dominion Electric has a large footprint in both states, and they both have similar climates and geography. Comparisons of their current and possible renewable energy footprint carry more weight than others.
Yet North Carolina outpaces Virginia in renewable energy generation. North Carolina produced 2,294 megawatts of solar energy in 2015 and installed 1,140 megawatts of solar capacity, while Virginia installed 10 megawatts of solar capacity and only produced 22 megawatts of solar energy.
At VEPF, the main reason posed for this discrepancy is differences in state energy policy. Two pieces of North Carolina legislation were cited specifically:
- A renewable energy tax credit passed in 1977, established a tax credit equal to 35% of the value of any renewable energy system installed.
- A more recent law that exempted 80% of the value of a photovoltaic solar unit from property taxes.
The result? North Carolina businesses and residents enjoy two important financial incentives to increase renewable, and especially solar, energy production. In the past few years, Virginia has adopted a similar property tax abatement, but has yet to authorize any renewable tax credits.
Virginia’s property tax abatement is a strong policy development but North Carolina still possesses a strong lead in policy encouraging renewable energy generation, a gap that is being keenly felt right now.
If Virginia wants to encourage a high level of renewable energy development, emulating its neighbor to the south would be a good place to start.