UPDATED April 21 to include source of information for total renewable tax credits.

State Rep. Chris Millis says the renewable energy industry hoodwinked North Carolina about the costs of giving special deals to renewable producers, which exploded from an initial projection of less than $5 million to $1.6 billion in payouts through 2016.

“The magnitude of the error was immense,” Millis, a Pender County Republican, said during a Thursday press conference advocating passage of House Bill 745 to roll back some of the incentives. He was joined by Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, another primary sponsor; Donald Bryson, Americans for Prosperity state director; and Landon Stevens of Strata Policy of Logan, Utah.

“The fiscal impact of past tax credits installed by the previous party in power has resulted in over $700 million in payouts for 2016 alone,” Millis said of credits passed when Democrats were in control of state government. “That could have gone to education, justice and public safety, or our state infrastructure needs.”

Millis told Carolina Journal he received the information from the state Department of Revenue. The $1.6 billion total includes not only the credits that have been paid to date but also credits that solar companies are entitled to receive but have not because they are allowed to claim no more than 20 percent of earned tax credits in any single year, he said.

Collins cited a 2015 energy report by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the forerunner of the Department of Environmental Quality, warning of the economic hazards of the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, a mandate forcing utilities to buy increasing amounts of power from renewable sources such as solar and wind.

Quoting the report, Collins said: “North Carolina remains the only state in the Southeast to have enacted a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. As a result of this geographic isolation, long-term energy prices may adversely impact economic growth, and challenge recent improvements in employment in North Carolina.”

North Carolina electricity rates increased more than 2.5 times the national and regional averages since 2008, Bryson said.

Bryson said the 2015 report forecast job losses from higher total electricity costs due to renewable energy purchases could exceed the jobs gained through renewable energy development.

The report further said job loss occurs “due to having less personal disposable income to spend on goods and services after paying higher energy rates,” Bryson said.

Millis said H.B. 745, the North Carolina Energy Ratepayers Protection Act, is intended to minimize the cost to energy ratepayers. He said the legislation that created the REPS gave “sweetheart deals” to every special interest stakeholder at the table.

Utility customers were not represented at those deliberations, he said. “The ratepayer [was] on the menu.”