Data Centers want NCGA to keep renewable energy subsidies

Apple, Facebook, Google have benefited from N.C. mandates and incentives

apple solarRALEIGH — The Economic Development Commission has identified data centers as a target industry for Rutherford County recruitment. Data centers look for locations with a stable environment, clean water, and cheap energy. Already the State of North Carolina and Facebook have built multimillion dollar facilities for the data servers in Rutherford County. Nearby ,Apple, Google and Disney are also up and running in their NC data network centers.

Internet search engine Google collected $262 million in incentives when it located to N.C. Google is urging the General Assembly to continue offering hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to renewable energy investors. However, Google’s own alternative energy project after it was deemed impossible to make renewable energy less expensive than traditional electricity.

Rep. Mike Hager
Rep. Mike Hager

On May 27 Google along with Apple and Facebook wrote Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, opposing House Bill 332 that is co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford.  This legislative bill would cap mandates forcing utilities to purchase power from renewable sources.

Google, Apple, and Facebook oppose H.B. 332 because it would freeze the amount of renewable energy utilities are required to purchase at 6 percent, instead of allowing it to jump to 12.5 percent by 2021. The bill also would reduce the size of renewable projects eligible for state-mandated contracts with electric utilities.

TechNet sent the letter for the three Internet companies stating H.B. 332 would hamper investment strategies and derail the companies’ requirement for “a reliable, sustainable electricity supply … from renewable energy.”

Google was pledged $97.1 million in state incentives, including $89 million in sales tax exemptions on the purchase of electricity and some equipment, along with $165 million in cash grants from Caldwell County and the town of Lenoir. The incentives are spread over 30 years. Apple has two 20-megawatt solar farms, and a 10-mw fuel cell farm. Google and Facebook have not developed their own solar resources.

Whenever there’s green power available, the utility is required to purchase it under the federal PURPA law. The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA, Pub.L. 95–617, 92 Stat. 3117, enacted November 9, 1978) is a United States Act passed as part of the National Energy Act. It was meant to promote energy conservation (reduce demand) and promote greater use of domestic energy and renewable energy (increase supply).

Even if there is no demand, the utility has to accept alternative energy. The utility companies bear the burden of building the electric generating systems, infrastructure, and controls that are capable of accepting solar electricity. These added costs of buying alternative energy are shifted to ratepayers.

NC House Bill 332 was referred to the committee on Finance on May 19, 2015.