No solar tariffs for N.C.

—Winston-Salem Journal

Posted

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina released a statement to remind us that the Trump administration’s tariffs are hurting a significant part of North Carolina industry: the solar energy market that has been providing jobs and essential income for North Carolineans. We appreciate his attempt to keep light on this important issue.

“The growth of solar energy in North Carolina has created thousands of jobs, generated billions of dollars of investment, and fostered economic development,” Tillis’ statement read. “Since the imposition of tariffs, North Carolina has experienced an exponential decrease in solar investment and projects planned. ... I will continue to advocate for the exclusion of advanced technologies that have the capability to modernize our grid and make the American solar energy industry globally competitive.”

Good for Tillis — he’s on the right side of this issue.

The tariffs are on imported solar panels, but the imports are matched with mechanics and infrastructure made in the U.S. In North Carolina, solar farms now generate income where textile factories and tobacco farms once did. The industry now powers more than 400,000 homes and employs around 7,000 people, WRAL reported earlier this year. “The state ranks as high as second in solar power production (behind California),” WRAL reported, noting Duke Energy’s investment in solar.

Duke Energy operates 35 solar facilities in North Carolina with 2,500 megawatts connected to its energy grid.

Tillis calls for carve-out exclusions — but the tariffs — essentially taxes on U.S. purchasers — should be eliminated in total.

President Trump may not have been thinking about renewable energy in particular when he began imposing tariffs on foreign goods, but his policies serve to remind us of a bigger energy picture that can influence our future for good or ill.

On one side we have renewable energy sources like solar and wind that become cheaper and more reliable as innovations and infrastructure are developed more fully, to the point that they’re now competitive with fossil fuels. It’s the direction much of the developed world is taking, from China to Germany.

Any young person good with his or her hands who wants to find stable and lucrative employment should look into wind turbine repair.

On the other is the Trump administration’s commitment to coal production and drilling for oil, even along our sensitive coasts, and its antipathy toward renewable energy. Earlier this month, the administration announced an impending end to subsidies for electric cars and other items, including renewable energy sources.

But fossil fuel can only be propped up for so long. As former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote in a Facebook posting several years ago: “I don’t want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That’s exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.”

We were once poised to lead the world into a clean energy future, but Trump policies threaten to put us at the back of the line.

North Carolina has a bright and prosperous future in renewable energy. It should be nurtured, not hindered.

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