Josh McClenney, josh[at]appvoices.org, (919) 454-1560
A bill drafted by North Carolina lawmakers behind closed doors was signed into law on Wednesday. House Bill 951 sets an ambitious goal of reducing carbon emissions 70% by 2030, and instructs the North Carolina Utilities Commission to take all steps necessary to achieve that goal by creating a carbon reduction plan. Advance Carolina, Appalachian Voices and the Center for Biological Diversity strongly opposed the bill due in part to the potential for significant cost increases for ratepayers and the potential to give Duke Energy sweeping authority to approve, reject, or modify the NCUC’s carbon reduction plan, potentially delaying or preventing the state from reaching its goals. The groups released the following statement in response.
The compromise piece of legislation has marginal improvements compared to previous versions of the bill, but in many ways still comes up short. The legislation shows continued commitment on behalf of Governor Cooper and his administration to take necessary steps outlined by Executive Order 80 and the Clean Energy Plan to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, the bill fails to address issues of affordability that already plague low- and moderate-income households, and which will get worse as a result of the new law.
Going forward, the governor, Duke Energy, the North Carolina Utilities Commission, and our elected lawmakers must be vocal advocates and champions for programs and reforms that support low- and moderate-income households and reduce the cost of electricity for all ratepayers. Specifically, we strongly recommend the following:
- The creation of a Percentage of Income Payment Plan to directly address affordability concerns by capping low-income electric bills at an affordable percentage of household income;
- The study and potential formation of a competitive regional wholesale market, which numerous studies have concluded could save ratepayers millions of dollars a year;
- Increased and transparent reporting on utility shut-offs and utility bill debt;
- Increased opportunities for shared and community solar that stand to benefit ratepayers of all classes as we continue to shift towards a cleaner energy future, and ensure that no one is left behind;
- Opportunity for public input through a clear and transparent process of public hearings and electronic submission of public comments.
Jovita Lee, Senior Environmental Justice Campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity: “This is just more of the same from Duke Energy. The legislation completely disregards those they serve in the name of greed. This bill was heavily criticized by environmental organizations, justice and equity advocates, manufacturers, and numerous others, and the failure to address their concerns does nothing but terrorize families and business owners. They will pay even more towards already unaffordable energy bills without seeing many of the benefits. Our legislators and the NCUC need to hold the line and ensure that our rulemaking and implementation going forward addresses the shortcomings of this legislation.”
Josh McClenney, Energy Democracy Field Coordinator with Appalachian Voices: “HB 951 sets a goal for 70% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and gives the commission authority to get there, but the legislation also provides enough power and oversight to Duke Energy to prevent that goal from becoming a reality. In addition, the failure to address the concerns of low- and moderate-income ratepayers shows the need for the NCUC, Duke Energy, the governor, and all stakeholders to focus on ensuring the concerns of those ratepayers are addressed. We look forward to working in partnership towards that goal.”
La’Meshia Whittington, Deputy Director with Advance Carolina: “Lofty promises were made by Duke Energy, the NC Utilities Commission, and lawmakers that there will be next steps in prioritizing our communities, ensuring that low-income to moderate-income ratepayers will have resources to afford their energy bill. We are here to hold this promise accountable, and these are the next steps to ensure that promise is kept to the people of North Carolina. Our communities need resource assistance, not a loan or finance program that will deepen their debt. Our communities deserve the opportunity to give public input on the programs designed for them.”