Repeal of the REPS will hurt North Carolina

Guest Blog | April 23, 2013 | Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy

UPDATE: A proposal to end North Carolina’s renewable energy program was defeated by a surprisingly wide margin on Wednesday, April 24 in a legislative committee chaired by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Hager (R-Rutherford). Those opposing the proposal cited concerns that it would hurt businesses and job creation in the state’s fast-growing clean energy industry. Read more here:

Apparently some in North Carolina are not paying attention to the boom in clean energy businesses and jobs that have sprouted up around the state in recent years.

When Senate Bill 3 passed in 2007 in a nearly-unanimous bipartisan vote, it established a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) requiring the state’s utility companies to provide a portion (12.5% for investor-owned utilities and 10% for municipal utilities and electric coops) of their retail electric sales to come from qualifying renewable energy and energy efficiency sources by 2021 (2018 for munis and coops). North Carolina was the first (and currently only) state in the Southeast to pass a renewable energy mandate; and by all indicators this policy has been a huge success for the Tar Heel State.

The REPS has the benefit of moving North Carolina toward a cleaner, safer, and healthier region. But the beauty of this policy is that it’s also driving positive economic growth and leading a transition to reliable, lower-cost renewable energy. Since 2007, renewable energy and energy efficiency project development has contributed $1.7 billion to the gross state product. A deeper analysis reveals that 22 North Carolina counties saw greater than $10 million in direct spending in clean energy development from 2007–2012, and another 24 counties saw at least $1 million. That’s nearly half of our state’s 100 counties experiencing economic benefits from clean energy development. That activity is being supported by an industry of more than 1,100 companies and over 15,000 jobs in North Carolina right now.

Why then, would sophomore Representative Mike Hager of Burke and Rutherford counties seek to repeal the NC REPS with HB 298, particularly when passing this bill could place thousands of jobs that have been created by investments in clean energy at risk? His counties, like most in North Carolina, have a lot to lose – for example, the REPS supported $5.6 million in clean energy spending in Rep. Hager’s own Burke County from 2007-2012.  Maybe he’s interested in sending those jobs and dollars to surrounding states like South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virgina?

Or maybe it’s because the REPS creates a charge – currently a fraction of 1 percent – on ratepayers’ monthly electric bills? Residential customers in Duke Energy Carolinas’ territory are currently paying 22 cents/month ($2.64 for all of 2013) to support the REPS, and those in Progress Energy Carolinas’ territory (pre-merger) are paying 42 cents/month ($4.92/year). Though even if folks happen to notice that tiny increase, the argument for opposing the REPS on the grounds of this slight rate rider is undermined by the fact that continued growth in clean energy in North Carolina is expected to lead to $173 million in cost savings to ratepayers by 2026.

Maybe, then, it’s just a case of politics and public interest? But even that wouldn’t make sense, because a recent non-partisan poll indicated that 89% of Democrats and 76% of Republicans in North Carolina felt that “state leaders and elected officials should seek more alternative and renewable energy sources, in order to provide consumers and businesses with power and electricity.”

Is something just not adding up here? Our REPS has:

→ Economics  √

→ Environment  √

→ Public Opinion  √

Makes sense to us, and apparently most everyone else. The REPS is good for North Carolina. HB 298, and its Senate counterpart, are bad for us all.

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