North Carolina is on the verge of becoming the first southeastern state to have a renewable energy standard portfolio after the House passed Senate Bill 3 July 31. The Senate approved the measure July 3.

The bill must be ratified or signed by Gov. Mike Easley to become law.

Some environmental groups, such as the N.C. Sustainable Energy Coalition, and lawmakers view the bill’s passage as a victory; other organizations, including Environment North Carolina and the N.C. Public Interest Research Group, and several legislators have opposed the measure because it contains perks for the utilitiesincentives that could encourage them to build more coal-fired or nuclear plants. These benefits include “construction work in progress,” which allows power companies, contingent upon approval from the N.C. Utilities Commission, to bill ratepayers for construction costs for new plants before they are complete.

And finally, the State Energy Office recently won an important award for saving North Carolina $66 million in energy savings at state and university facilities since 2002.

The annual Regional Innovations Award is presented by the Council of State Governments, based in Lexington, Ky. The SEO competed against 112 state programs throughout the United States.

The timing of this recognition is critical, in that several lawmakers have proposed dismantling the SEO and scattering its authority among other agencies. In that reorganization, at least four people would lose their jobs due to funding cuts.