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Repeal of green-energy mandate fails

A bill to repeal or freeze North Carolina’s landmark renewable-energy law died in a N.C. House committee on Wednesday.

The bill failed on a 13-18 vote in the Public Utilities and Energy Committee. The committee is chaired by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Hager, a Rutherford County Republican.

Hager, a former Duke Energy engineer, had argued that the 2007 law unfairly forced consumers to subsidize solar, wind and other forms of green energy.

At the end of 2012, residential customers of Duke Energy Carolinas were paying 22 cents a month to offset the utility’s expenses to comply with the law. Progress Energy Carolinas customers were being billed 41 cents monthly.

But the Republican-led legislature never appeared to embrace Hager’s argument.

Advocates released studies showing the law, the first in the Southeast, had opened new markets for energy developers and energy-efficiency firms, creating thousands of jobs during a down economy.

The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association’s 2012 jobs census found the equivalent of 15,200 full-time employees working for 1,100 energy-related companies with total revenues of $3.7 billion a year.

Hager’s initial bill deleted the law’s core requirement that utilities derive 12.5 percent of their sales from green energy or energy efficiency by 2021.

Substitute language sent to the House Environment Committee on April 9 softened that language, freezing the green-energy mandate at 6 percent of utility sales by 2018.

The bill was withdrawn from that committee Monday and sent to Public Utilities. Even with a favorable vote there, it would have had to go back before the Environment Committee and then the Regulatory Reform Committee.

Duke Energy, which now serves most of North Carolina, has said it has not lobbied for changes in the law.

Henderson: 704-358-5051 Twitter: @bhender
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