North Carolina had held the title “second in solar” for a few years now, but that title does not come cheap. And as JLF’s Jon Sanders writes in his latest research brief, higher energy costs can cost lives. Sanders writes:

Energy poverty is a serious issue. Research shows that higher energy prices cost lives. The U.S. Energy Information Agency showed in 2018 that one in three families struggled to pay energy bills, and one out of every five families had to forego food or medicine to do so.

Households who spend a noteworthy portion of their income on energy expenses are what is known as “energy poor.” Sanders quotes a Wall Street Journal piece to explain the term:

Economists consider households energy poor if they spend 10% of their income to cover energy costs. A recent report from the International Energy Agency shows that more than 30 million Americans live in households that are energy poor—a number that is significantly increased by climate policies that require Americans to consume expensive green energy from subsidized solar panels and wind turbines.

People of modest means spend a significantly higher share of their income paying for their energy needs. One careful study of energy usage in North Carolina found that a lower-income family might spend more than 20% of its income on energy. Among people with incomes below 50% of the federal poverty line, energy costs regularly consumed more than a third of their budgets.

Sanders makes three recommendations for North Carolina:

  1. Let PURPA contract rates to qualifying renewable energy facilities vary according to market conditions and be revisited every 1-2 years, rather than be fixed for 10 years
  2. Place a moratorium on new solar and wind facilities and incentives until further study
  3. Promote the retention of existing nuclear plants, which are least-cost, zero-emission sources of electricity

Read his recommendations in full here. For more information, see: Why Aren’t We Benefitting From Falling Costs of Solar?, PURPA Rules Change Could Help Electricity Consumers, and Keeping Zero-Emissions, Low-Cost Nuclear Power Saves Lives