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Apple, Facebook, Google warn N.C. General Assembly not to change renewable-energy requirements

Three of the world’s largest tech companies have called on the N.C. General Assembly to avoid making changes to the state’s renewable-energy policies.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) and Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), which own energy centers in the state, sent a letter to top lawmakers telling them North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard was part of the reason they have chosen to invest in the state. The letter was addressed to Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans. It was dated May 27.

“The current policies were put in place after careful consideration and produce significant benefits — something we have seen consistently in states with strong commitments to renewable energy — which include providing sustainable sources of power, diversifying the energy supply, supporting innovation, and providing billions of dollars of in-state economic growth and thousands of jobs throughout the state,” the letter says.

The letter comes as the Senate prepares to take up H. 332, which would freeze the state's mandate that energy utilities obtain a portion of their electricity from renewable resources at the current 6 percent level. It would also lower the size threshold at which renewable-energy projects require contracts to be negotiated with the utilities.

The letter notes that both of those proposed changes were reviewed by the N.C. Utilities Commission but were ultimately rejected. Apple, Facebook and Google say they oppose H. 332.

“The undersigned companies have chosen to locate in North Carolina in part because the state’s existing energy policies enable us to operate and grow our businesses in furtherance of the goals mentioned above,” the letter says. “Any change should therefore consider not just protecting, but expanding these benefits, and any changes should include a comprehensive review of energy policies through established, inclusive stakeholder processes.”

Allison Eckley of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association says she hopes the letter “serves as a wake-up call” for lawmakers about the potential business impact of changing the state’s renewable-energy policies.

“This is exactly the argument we have been trying to make,” Eckley says. “North Carolina’s renewable-energy policies have helped to drive innovation and have brought investments into the state. Having three of the world’s largest, most innovative tech companies release such a letter should help lawmakers who are still on the fence to support the REPS policy.”

Eckley says her organization was not involved in the writing of the letter. But NCSEA circulated copies of it to lawmakers in the General Assembly.

“We were told that this letter was not part of some nationwide blast because other states are considering changes to their REPS policies,” Eckley says. “They chose to single out North Carolina, which should show how important this is to them.”

Supporters of H. 332 have argued the REPS policy requires electric utilities to pay for energy they do not need in order to comply with the mandate. They argue the policy costs consumers money.

H. 332 recently passed out of the Senate Finance Committee. It has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full Senate.