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A Peek Into North Carolina’s Clean Energy Future

Solar panels convert solar energy to usable engergy.
Innovations in clean energy, like solar panels, may help North Carolina get to zero emissions by 2050.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality recently released a planto significantly reduce greenhouse gases from electricity production over the next decade. The goal is to get to zero emissions by 2050, starting with a 60 to 70% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.

The new proposal is part of Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order from last fall that commits North Carolina to comply with the goals of the Paris Agreement — even though President Donald Trump has said he will pull the U.S. out of that treaty as soon as possible.

Host Frank Stasio talks to Billy Pizer about this plan and where the state stands on clean energy production. Pizer is a professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He discusses the economic and political implications of climate change policy in North Carolina and in the United States.

Interview Highlights

On the benefits of clean energy policy:

Most people think this is the way the world is going. Most countries, most jurisdictions, most people are concerned about climate change, and we've got to do something. Beginning that transition now [and] getting North Carolina ahead — beginning to take these steps before we have to make more drastic action — I think is the way to make sure that we do it in the most friendly, economical … And best way for the citizens of North Carolina.

The really big ticket items are going to require legislation. You don't really fundamentally change the way businesses and individuals behave without incentives that come from legislation. - Billy Pizer

Comparing the cost of renewable energy to fossil fuel energy:

It's a little bit hard to talk about what's going to be the difference in costs of power generation after five or 10 years, because when we begin looking in the future, the costs are going to depend a lot on which path we take. The more solar and renewables that we install, the cheaper they're going to become. And the less we do with fossil, the less technological improvement is going to occur in that industry. So I certainly think over time, it's going to be true that renewables are cheaper than fossil — in some cases, they already are.

On why some automakers have sided with California over the Trump administration in the fight for stricter fuel-efficiency standards:

Most businesses — they don't want to be jerked around. They don't want to have crazy fast changes in the rules of the road. But they want certainty. They want to know what the rules of the road are going to be. And when you're in a space like we are now — where I think the policies have not really kept up to speed with where the science and where the evidence is about the consequences — businesses are assuming there's going to be something … So in the case of California and the cars, I think they're siding with California, because they think California is a better indicator of where we're going to be in 15 years and where the rest of the world is going to be perhaps even sooner.

Amanda Magnus is the executive producer of Embodied, a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships and health. She has also worked on other WUNC shows including Tested and CREEP.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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