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Thursday, March 19, 2015

N.C. Senate Dems. push environmental, economic development bills

Posted by on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 12:32 PM

On Wednesday, Forsyth County Sen. Paul Lowe introduced a bill to extend North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which has been in place for more than 30 years and has been a major incentive for solar energy investors.

S329 would continue to give taxpayers who have constructed, purchased or leased renewable energy property a 35 percent tax credit on the cost of their investment. The tax credit was threatened during the 2013 long legislative session when a comprehensive tax reform bill would have expressly repealed it; instead, it was extended until January 1, 2016, and Lowe’s bill would push that extension back until January 1, 2020.

“North Carolina has long been a leader in the South in the renewable energy industry and this bill encourages continued economic development of that industry,” Lowe said in a statement. “It is not only important that we support the renewable energy industry that has blossomed in this state, but that we protect the environment as well.”

Lowe called the tax credit “common sense policy” and added that he hoped to see bipartisan support for the legislation.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee approved bipartisan legislation that would allow several communities in eastern North Carolina to move forward with a sales agreement to reduce electricity rates. The Senate Finance Committee will vote on S305 next week.

Under the agreement, Duke Energy would purchase shares in power generators currently owned by North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA), which operates in 32 municipalities in the eastern part of the state. The legislation is expected to reduce electricity rates and spur economic development.

“(This bill) will make the region more competitive, attract new jobs and reduce rates for families and businesses, allowing them to have comparable electric rates to surrounding communities,” said Sen. Angela Bryant, a co-sponsor of the legislation, whose district encompasses four eastern counties. “It will encourage growth and prosperity that has largely been stifled in the eastern part of the state."
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