Category: Environment and Natural Resources

Renewable Energy in Rural Communities

Did you know… Eighteen percent of all electricity in the United States was produced by renewable sources in 2017, including solar, wind, and hydroelectric dams? That’s up from 15% in 2016!

 The Challenge

As society continues to modernize, more issues arise for government entities to address. Budget departments face the need to increase revenues, while the demand for services rises. Additionally, industries have been impacted by changes in specialization. Climate change is also continuing throughout the state as the coast experiences more natural disasters, and temperatures fluctuate. These are only a few of the struggles governments are working to solve, however, one possibility attempts to address these “wicked problems.”

 The Solution

Municipalities have the opportunity to change the way that they function by bringing renewable energy to their communities. Rural areas in North Carolina have brought in both solar and wind power, which benefits the revenue stream and assists in tackling climate change. Solar power companies will come into cities and provide their solar panels. As they become part of the community, they join the local economy, and their taxes highly benefit residents of these cities.



Wind power has also brought similar benefits to communities, while taking up less space. Some wind agencies have worked with farmers to ensure that turbines do not ruin the local industries. For example, they have implanted the devices in farmland, and worked with farmers to create space around the turbine for them to further their crop yield. It has allowed for greater crop growth and assisted in the fight against climate change.

The Network that Worked

In America, 55% of current investments into renewable energy go to rural counties due to their access to resources and smaller populations. Therefore, as more companies are looking to bring their business to rural areas, it is important that North Carolina stand apart. The Amazon Wind Farm alone brings in around $800 million in revenue to the state, so it is essential for the officials to assist in making North Carolina desirable for investors. Further, local government entities need to push folks to come to the area, if this is the way they choose to increase revenue. Additionally, researchers need to continue to disperse their findings to rural communities, so they can better analyze the costs and benefits to renewable energy in their localities.



The Learning

Cities or counties looking to bring renewable energy to their community will need to consider a variety of issues. First, the benefits of bringing renewable energy to your community, are that it: 1) addresses climate change, 2) improves public health, 3) an inexhaustible energy source, 4) provides jobs and other economic benefits, 5) creates stable energy prices, and 6) forms general reliability and reliance on renewables.

However, there are also some barriers that entities also need to be aware of: 1) negotiations and deals with renewable companies, 2) fluctuations in property values and population, and 3) general fights from opponents. Consideration will be necessary, but after an appropriate analysis, real change can be seen in rural communities that bring in renewables.

Drinking Water Incident Response Toolkit Now Available Online

Co-Author: Maddie Shea

On July 16, 2019, the ncIMPACT Initiative launched the North Carolina Drinking Water Incident Response Toolkit online and presented a webinar introducing the toolkit. You can view a recording of the webinar online. The toolkit includes a guide for pre-incident planning, customizable tools for local governments, information on mutual aid, communication tools, essential information on drinking water and its regulation, and an appendix of additional resources.

Drinking water incidents such as floods, infrastructure failures, or contaminations may create real or perceived threats to the safety of drinking water across North Carolina. One highlight from the toolkit is the section on pre-incident planning. Any local community can be vulnerable to experiencing a drinking water incident. As such, this guide was developed to help local governments be as prepared as possible to respond if and when incidents occur. The guide is based on the principles that preparation is crucial, that it should be inclusive and collaborative, and that local issues and needs vary.

The guide:

  • Highlights the need for a local champion,
  • Provides example invitation lists and letters,
  • Offers a sample tabletop exercise,
  • Includes sample discussion questions, and
  • Recommends a list of considerations for pre-incident planning meetings.

The ncIMPACT Initiative and the School of Government convened and staffed the Drinking Water Working Group with support from a grant from the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory. The Drinking Water Working Group guided development of this toolkit and resources to assist local governments when they must respond to drinking water incidents. We are grateful to the membership of the working group for their time and expertise.

The webinar was presented by:

For more information, please contact:

Jill Moore, Associate Professor, UNC School of Government 

Emily Williamson Gangi, Policy Engagement Director, ncIMPACT Initiative


Helping Local Governments Respond to Drinking Water Incidents

The UNC Institute for the Environment recently featured the Drinking Water Working Group, which is coordinated by the ncIMPACT Initiative with support from a grant provided by the NC Policy Collaboratory. Read more from faculty lead Jill Moore at:

The Drinking Water Working Group is a committee of 22 water quality, public health, and local government professionals convened to develop a guide for North Carolina local governments to respond in the event of a drinking water incident. Drinking water incidents such as floods, infrastructure failures, or contaminations may create real or perceived threats to the safety of drinking water across North Carolina. The purpose of the Drinking Water Working Group is to compile a toolkit of resources to assist local governments when they must respond to such incidents.

The drinking water response toolkit will be prepared and shared on an informative website (as well as in printable format) in June 2019. Proposed toolkit items include:

  • Materials for a local pre-incident planning meeting,
  • Worksheets for assembling local information about persons to contact in an incident,
  • Sample local documents, such as mutual aid agreements,
  • Links to communication tools, such as drinking water advisories, and
  • NC-specific resources, such as directories of relevant agencies
  • For more information, contact:

Emily Williamson Gangi, Engagement Director, ncIMPACT Initiative,


What You Told Us in the ncIMPACT Planning Survey

We launched ncIMPACT in 2017 to help public officials in North Carolina navigate critical policy challenges across a wide range of topics, including health, education, economic development, criminal justice, public finance, and the environment. As we planned this new initiative, we wanted to hear from practitioners and other citizens about the most vexing policy issues in their community and in the state as a whole, and what we could do to help. As such, in January 2017 we drafted an online survey and distributed it with the assistance of various peer associations and a targeted Twitter campaign. Over the course of two months, we received 154 responses to our survey. Please read on for an analysis of our results.

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