The sun keeps shining on North Carolina’s renewable energy investors — at taxpayers’ expense.

The state’s renewable energy investment tax credit program expired Dec. 31, 2015. Yet the state paid $454 million in the subsidies the past two years, including a record $245 million for calendar year 2016. It’s likely the state might forgo hundreds of millions more in tax revenue through 2020.

The program may be dead, but many of the tax credits remain alive. It was structured to issue tax credits equaling 35 percent of the money companies invested in renewable projects. Investors also have up to five years to claim the credits against the taxes they owe. Not surprisingly, companies with big tax bills tend to use credits the most.

In 2017 the state paid $209 million in credits, including $1 million or more to 41 entities, based on state Department of Revenue data. Of the recipients, 31 were large insurance companies, four were big banks, and two were electric utilities. Only three were people. Apple rounded out the list.

“At the end of the day it’s the taxpayer who’s getting the shaft because they’re pretty much subsidizing this,” said former state lawmaker Chris Millis of Pender County.

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