Andrew Jackson Democrats has learned the Renewable Energy Legislation reported on by StateDem in last week's Capital Talk blogpost is in the final stages of the Legislative process. Last week StateDem reported the following information on the Renewable Energy Bill:
The Energy Issues Working Group (EIWG), a gathering of environmental advocates and corporate representatives, has spent hours this week discussing Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS) that could be imposed upon power companies in North Carolina. In a nutshell, the legislation would, over several years, phase in a requirement that a certain percentage of power generated by each company be derived from renewable resources. It appears that consensus is building around a 10% requirement. However, the legislation may also include related issues such as authorizing power companies to receive funding for new nuclear generation and possibly to recover costs for failed projects. The bottom line is that electricity rates will increase after the changes; the hope is that through conservation efforts, customers will use less and thus decrease their overall bill. North Carolina has to deal with how to generate power to serve a growing population in an environmentally responsible manner.
The expectation is that Senate Bill 3 "2007 Promote Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Act" will be published in the Senate Agriculture/Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday. If the bill is approved at that meeting then it will be re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration next week.
These meetings will likely be a ratification of the work conducted over months of negotiations in the Energy Issues Working Group. This Group included representatives of utilities, environmental advocacy groups, and the NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources.
Those who have followed the working group closely report that the major components of the bill that have been agreed to by these parties are:
A 12.5% renewable energy & energy efficiency portfolio standard (REPS)-This is the requirement that by 2021 each electric utility must produce at least 12.5% of its electricity from renewable resources. The requirement is stepped up over the implementation period. Renewable energy sources would include solar energy and energy from poultry and swine waste. By 2018, at least two tenths of energy production would have to come from solar.
Reform of the planning and review process for new power plants-This process would be altered to give the public greater assurance that power plants are constructed only when needed and to allow for more accurate cost estimates. Also, this provision will enable utilities to recover costs of construction if the construction process is begun but not finished, acknowledgement of the heavy risk that utilities bear in constructing plants.
Repeal the tax on electricity purchased by manufacturers-This component of the bill was essential to manufacturer support of the bill. It will cost the state treasury about $30 million and will ensure that the costs of rising rates will not stunt economic growth in North Carolina.
All this considered this legislation is an important for North Carolina to meet future energy needs of a rapidly growing population, keep electricity rates stable, promote energy independence, reduce pollution and protect the environment.
However, as alluded to in the last bullet: there is a significant cost to these positive developments. The Utility Commission is expected to release a report detailing the cost to the public in the next few days. This is a very important next step for deciding whether or not North Carolinians can afford this legislation.