Front Porch Blog

Rushed Anti-Renewable Energy Bill Stalls in Committee

By Davis Wax
Editorial assistant, Spring/Summer 2013

Shine On: Clean energy in North Carolina will continue to create jobs and yield benefits after a bill to repeal the state's renewable standard failed in committee today. Image licensed under Creative Commons.

A bill in the N.C. House that would repeal the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS) failed today in the House Committee on Public Utilities and Energy by a vote of 18-13.

According to the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association talk of insufficient votes in the Environment Committee prompted Rep. Mike Hager to withdraw the “Affordable and Reliable Electricity Act” from the committee’s scheduled hearing in order to attempt to push it through the Public Utilities Committee, which he chairs.

“If the only way a business can move forward is with a subsidy, then maybe we need to rethink the business,” said Hager, a former Duke Energy employee and the bill’s primary sponsor. Fellow lawmakers responded by saying that Duke Energy has an effective subsidy through its huge monopoly on electricity distribution in the state and that subsidies have been used to help up-and-coming industries for decades.

Even after Hager agreed to keep the 12.5 percent commitment to renewable energy from retail sales of state utilities in the bill in order to make it more appealing, a bipartisan majority including several key Republicans in the Utilities Committee still killed the legislation. In the most recent version Hager pushed through, the bill would still allow companies like Duke Energy to let their renewable energy contracts run out without expecting them to pursue any further commitments to wind, solar, biomass, or other industries.

The bill was expected to fail in the committee. In the two months since its introduction, it has become apparent to lawmakers and the public that the legislation was grounded in the flawed findings of think tanks including the John Locke Foundation that the renewable portfolio standards are costing North Carolinians by raising the cost of electricity.

RTI International and La Capra Associates have shown the standards to have “no appreciable rate impact to residential, commercial, and industrial customer groups through 2026.” It will, however, result in “$173 million in cost savings” by the same year. Read more on our coverage of the REPS in North Carolina.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is behind the bill’s creation, modeling it after their “Electricity Freedom Act,” a template for laws against renewable energy which the group has pushed into the majority of states with portfolio standards. ALEC’s investors and board are comprised of a menagerie of corporate America including Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, and Chevron. Duke Energy is a member of the group’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force.

To commemorate Earth Day, ALEC called for a happier, more positive celebration and derided environmentalists’ treatment of the day as “a largely somber event.” An op-ed by Nick Surgey exposes the groups messaging misdirection by reminding readers that ALEC is behind much of the legislation worrying environmentalists across the nation.

While recent trends in Raleigh may belie the bill failing by such a wide margin, it is a positive step that the “Affordable and Reliable Electricity Act” was seen for what it really is: a move to maintain fossil fuel’s market share in North Carolina and other states that have seen the light and welcome the benefits of committing to renewable energy.

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1 Comments

  1. hebintn on May 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    “If the only way a business can move forward is with a subsidy, then maybe we need to rethink the business.” I’m sick of “business”. Believe it or not the bottom line is not the only important thing in the world. Supporting clean energy initiatives can actually help the private sector, but not as long as filthy-fossil-fuels are subsidized by the government. Sometimes it is actually vision of the future that needs to drive our actions today, and our future must be driven by clean energy. We must accelerate transition our primary energy generation to clean non-fossil sources. To not do so dooms us to continued environmental wreckage, global warming and human health impact.



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