The following is a column by Mark Shiver, host of the “What Matters in North Carolina” podcast.
The question that runs like a current through the debate over renewable energy advocacy is, “If renewable energy is so great, why can’t it stand on its own without being propped up by government aid?” It is valid question that rarely gets convincingly answered.
Regarding this point, Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin) said on the Wednesday, March 22 episode of the “What Matters in North Carolina” podcast that while ten or so years ago, government may have wanted to explore the renewable industry and lend a helping hand to get it moving, he would not have voted for the legislation, Senate Bill 3, that in 2007 implemented assistance for the industry.
Dixon said, “Senate Bill 3 would have never passed with my vote. In my opinion – and this may sound sensational – but Senate Bill 3 is one of the biggest shams that’s ever been put on the people of North Carolina. And having said that, in the defense of renewables, we needed to explore … Government needed to give a helping hand to see what the situation would be.”
Recently there has been back and forth even among some conservatives regarding the importance politically of supporting the renewable energy sector. Dan Way at carolinajournal.com wrote a story on March 15 about a gathering of lawmakers addressed by consultants Paul Shumaker and Dee Stewart. Way quoted Stewart as saying, “But when a lawmaker supports policies that are conducive to the expansion of clean energy options, it’s a winner across the board.”
Way also quotes Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), the chief budget writer in the NC House, as saying that in his 2016 primary election his opponent had an organization going door to door attacking him on his support of renewable energy. His opponent, Mark Villee, lost.
Shumaker and Stewart made the assertion that maintaining a majority in the General Assembly may well hinge on supporting renewable energy policies. Dixon took issue with that idea and said, “This idea of conservatives for renewable energy – the only thing I could liken [that to] would be liberals against birth control. It is an anomaly.”
Dixon has filed several bills during this legislative session that would decrease some of the money coming out of taxpayers’ pockets and going to the renewable energy sector. He said that there are those whose interest in keeping things the way they are regarding government propping up the renewable sector is financial, but that he is concerned about his grandchildren and their future electric bills.
“I’m concerned about the citizens of North Carolina and what they’re paying for electricity,” Dixon said. “And if it hadn’t have been for the reduction in natural gas costs and other things, then the real cost of these renewables being added to the grid would be more evident.”
The renewable energy sector is thriving in North Carolina, in large part because it has been the recipient of government assistance on a broad level. Those who sing its accolades tout it as the future of energy for the state. The question remains, however, that if the sector is so grand, why can’t it stand on its own?