Editor’s note: The N.C. General Assembly is scheduled to begin debate on House Bill 298, which would repeal the state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard. WRALTechWire reached out to two opposing sides of the argument to discuss the issue. The law should not be changed, says the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director, NC Sustainable Energy Association, says:

When you have something that works you stick with it. That’s common sense. North Carolina currently has a policy in place, the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), which has proven not only to work, but to be a veritable workhorse when it comes to bringing investment, innovation, jobs, and cost savings to our state. Now the North Carolina General Assembly has before it a proposal, House Bill 298, which would repeal the REPS law. You’ve heard of throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Well HB 298 would throw the baby out with the bathwater, and then move on to chuck the tub out the window too for good measure.

Projects and investments resulting from the REPS law have helped North Carolina begin to carve out a competitive advantage compared to other states in the southeast looking to secure jobs and revenue from this high growth sector. According to a recent study by RTI International and La Capra Associates, Inc., the total economic benefit of clean energy development in North Carolina from 2007-2012 was $1.7 billion, with the state’s clean energy policies generating net revenue for the state of $113 million.

Not only do we now have a six year lead as a first mover on clean energy in the region, but our experience with REPS has also helped us to maintain comparatively low electricity rates. The same study also showed that North Carolina consumers stand to realize more than $173 million in cost savings between 2007 and 2026 due to the state’s clean energy policies, including the REPS.

The study found that North Carolina experienced a net gain in employment of 21,162 “job years” from 2007-2012 resulting from clean energy development. Opponents have claimed these jobs are somehow not real. I doubt that is a view that would be shared by the people doing the work and supporting their families. The innovation driven by the REPS are real. So are the savings, the jobs, and the people benefiting from these gains. We should not be quick to give these advantages away.

Not surprisingly the public seems to have caught on to the value clean energy offers. A statewide public opinion survey conducted earlier this year by Fallon Research, confirmed that North Carolinians from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support the increased use of clean energy sources like solar, biomass and wind energy – precisely the type of energy sources that are the focus of the REPS law. In a finding with particular relevance to the current debate over HB 298, nearly 70% of respondents to the survey also declared the REPS law itself a good idea. With the virtues of market competition, innovation, jobs and cost savings on its side, it is no wonder clean energy enjoys this level of popular support.

The REPS law works. North Carolina would do well to stick with it.

Note: The John Locke Foundation provided a counter viewpoint.