Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type


Director of Thesis

Dr. Conor M. Harrison

Second Reader

Dr. Robert H. Cox


This thesis is a research and analysis project that seeks to understand the energy policies in North and South Carolina that have led to different growths of solar energy generation in the two states. When considering the states’ proximity to each other and similar solar resources, they should have similar numbers of installations and capacity. In national rankings of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, however, North Carolina ranks second while South Carolina ranks sixteenth. This suggests policy differences between the two states that have helped North Carolina and hindered South Carolina. This project was examined from the lenses of legislation, utility regulation, and external factors and events. Research was completed through a number of sources including legislative and regulatory policy analysis, literature research, in-person interviews, and archived news articles. These sources suggest that North Carolina’s solar success over the past two decades is due to a few key, favorable policies that have spurred development: historically generous interpretations of the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, a now-expired renewable energy tax credit of 35%, and a renewable portfolio standard. South Carolina, on the other hand, has only begun to substantially grow its solar industry in the past six or seven years. This has happened through the easing of restrictions that hindered development as well as massive public backlash against utilities and conventional sources of electricity generation due to a failed nuclear power plant. In the future, new policies in both states will likely seek to ensure continued industry growth in the face of concerns about anthropogenic climate change, economic growth, and a transition to renewable and distributed energy.

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