Updated: House Bill 681 was defeated in the House Public Utilities Committee Wednesday, according to reports. Four Republicans, including Wake County Reps. Nelson Dollar and Chris Malone, joined 12 Democrats in voting against the bill in a 16-14 majority.
Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards laws—REPS—have been great for North Carolina, but a new bill would end the REPS requirement, under the guise of protecting the state’s ratepayers.
On Monday, four Republicans in the House filed the NC Energy Ratepayers Protection Act. The bill keeps requirements for utilities to include renewables in their energy portfolios through 2018, but cuts any requirements thereafter.
This is unfortunate.
REPS ensure that a portion of electricity sold by our three investor-owned utilities come from renewable sources (like solar, hydro and wind), ensuring a cleaner environment and a more sustainable future for all of us. These laws are one of the reasons why the state’s solar industry has taken off, allowing the state to rely less on coal or nuclear energy; now, North Carolina has a $4.8 billion clean energy economy which generated $280.7 million for state and local governments last year.
Under the comprehensive Senate Bill 3 in 2007, North Carolina became the 25th state in the country to enact REPS laws which would ensure that by 2021, 12.5 percent of the state’s electricity came from clean energy sources. Senate Bill 3 was passed with broad bipartisan support.
According to the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, a nonprofit comprised of clean energy stakeholders, H681 will halt the state’s ability to introduce new energy strategies into its heavily monopolized electric utility sector and deter current and potential clean energy developers from doing business in North Carolina.
“This monopoly control of our utilities limits innovation and market competition,” said Betsy McCorkle, the Director of Government Affairs for the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA).
“(The introduction of REPS laws in S3) was the first real opportunity for clean energy companies to compete with the utilities and offer consumers a choice, all while creating thousands of jobs, expanding business opportunities, pumping billions of dollars into our economy and driving down the cost of clean energy resources.”
NCSEA says that, contrary to what the bill’s sponsors would have us believe, H681 would actually burden ratepayers, who were set to save $615 million in electricity costs by having clean energy in the mix.
We saw a version of this legislation back in 2013 with the same primary sponsors, Mike Hager, R-Burke, Rutherford and Rep. Chris Millis, R-Onslow, Pender. That bill didn’t make it past the committee stage, where H681 now lingers.
“Due to the leadership of our utilities, our state is ahead of schedule in complying with REPS in most areas, while staying well below the ‘cost cap’ that was put in place as protection for consumers,” McCorkle said. “This legislation would be needlessly destructive to a job-creating industry and would result in government interference into a well-functioning market that continues to attract investment.”