North Carolina edges closer to repeal of renewable portfolio standard

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North Carolina this week edged closer towards the repeal of the state's renewable portfolio standard.

The Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Energy and Emerging Markets on Wednesday voted 11 to 10 to amend House Bill 298, which aims to revoke the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS).

REPS mandates North Carolina's utilities to obtain renewable energy power and energy efficiency savings of 3% of prior-year electricity sales in 2012, 6% in 2015, 10% in 2018, and 12.5% in 2021. REPS legislation was passed in 2007 and allow costs to be recovered through the ratebase at capped rates: $12 for residential customers in 2012; $150 for commercial customers; $1,000 for industrial customers.

The Affordable and Reliable Energy Act was introduced by Representative Mike Hager and would freeze North Carolina’s renewable power mandate at the current 3%, effectively blocking any new renewable contracts or incentives for further energy efficiency savings.

On Wednesday, Hager told the subcommittee why he had introduced the bill. “We've come through the early childhood years and we're now into teenage years at some point it's time for us to say you've got to get out on your own,” he said. “We've brought you through for six  years so far and it's time for you to move on to the next phase.

“What this bill does is try to soft land this business and to be competitive you need to move from government subsidy you need to move off the taxpayer rolls. I see this as an entitlement programme that is beginning to get its roots into our state. I see it as a regressive type tax.”

Hager's bill is part of a nationwide campaign to repeal state-based renewable portfolio standards backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is supported by the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel interests.

Critics of RPS programmes claim that they burden ratepayers but a report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory last year found rate impacts of RPS had so far been “modest”, much less than 5% in most states.

In North Carolina, one study showed that consumers stand to realise more than $173 million in cost savings between 2007 and 2026 due to the state’s clean energy policies. The report from RTI International and La Capra Associates also showed that the total economic benefit of clean energy development in the state from 2007-2012 would be $1.7 billion.

“This is simply the wrong move at the wrong time,” said Ivan Urlaub, executive director of the NC Sustainable Energy Association. “No good ever comes when you pass laws based on a mistaken premise and the assumption underlying this bill that the REPS law raises electricity rates and costs jobs could not be further from the truth.”

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