Another bill aiming to freeze North Carolina’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (REPS) at 6% has passed the state Senate Finance Committee.
House Bill number 332 was pushed through in a controversial manner according to local reports, with some senators claiming there was a majority voting against the bill rather than for it.
If brought into law, the Bill would freeze the amount that utility companies are mandated to buy from renewable energy generators at 6%, instead of increasing to 10% by 2018 and 12.5% by 2021.
It would also reduce the guaranteed market for renewable energy by requiring utilities to pay a standard rate for power from renewable energy plants of up to 100kW in scale rather than up to 5MW. This comes with the exception of energy produced from swine and poultry waste, which will still be supported up to 5MW. The move comes in spite of an order made by the Utilities Commission in December 2014, which found it appropriate to retain the 5MW threshold for renewables.
This Bill comes shortly after the voting down of House Bill 681 in April, which proposed introducing the Energy Ratepayers Protection Act and cutting the lifetime and targets of the State’s REPS.
The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) said the latest proposal to freeze the REPS was based on a “false premise” that renewable energy support hurts ratepayers.
It cited a recent study from RTI International and ScottMadden Consultants, which found that the REPS has saved ratepayers US$162 million since it was adopted and will save an additional US$489 million by 2029.
NCSEA claimed that the bill becoming law would result in loss of investment, jobs and additional ratepayer savings. It would also end consistent savings since 2008.
An NCSEA statement said: “In North Carolina, the monopoly control granted to electric utilities stifles innovation and market competition. In the absence of a free market, job creators and investors depend on stable energy policy. HB 332 unfairly and abruptly changes the rules for these North Carolinians, and will lead to significant lost jobs and investments for North Carolina's urban and rural counties.”
In one week in April, North Carolina was one of three states including New Mexico and Texas that tampered with their REPS or tax credits for the solar trade.