Viewpoint

Don’t buy false attacks against N.C.’s clean energy law

Clean energy projects, like these solar arrays at an airport in Ellenboro, have been encouraged by North Carolina’s renewable energy standards.
Clean energy projects, like these solar arrays at an airport in Ellenboro, have been encouraged by North Carolina’s renewable energy standards. jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com

From Ivan Urlaub, executive director of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

The opinion piece regarding a Civitas Institute study (Aug. 5 Viewpoint, “N.C. must freeze energy mandates”) highlights the latest in a string of discredited and biased reports attacking North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS).

The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association takes issue with many of the report’s inaccurate claims and wishes to address a few, plus share the facts.

Passed in 2007 by the N.C. General Assembly with overwhelming support, Senate Bill 3 created North Carolina’s REPS to diversify our state’s energy mix and promote the development of clean energy resources by requiring electric utilities to gradually increase their use of renewable energy and energy efficiency to 12.5 percent of retail electricity sales by 2021.

Despite attempts by opponents like Civitas to misinform, repeal or freeze the REPS law, a bipartisan group of legislators have voted to maintain the REPS because it has been a driving force behind North Carolina’s $7 billion clean energy industry, its 26,000-plus jobs, and savings for electricity customers.

Clean energy has become an important economic opportunity for our state. Here’s where the Civitas Institute’s study comes up short.

The Civitas report uses very little North Carolina-specific data in its methodology and instead relies on national averages and outdated or inaccurate information. The report significantly overestimates the amount of new generation needed to satisfy future REPS requirements compared to projections from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and incorrectly assumes that all REPS requirements would be met with new utility-owned wind and solar projects.

In fact, North Carolina’s REPS law allows for REPS compliance to be met with energy efficiency and a range of renewable energy resources, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydropower.

Furthermore, the Civitas report doesn’t acknowledge an important component of North Carolina’s REPS law – an annual “cost cap” that limits the amount customers can be charged for REPS compliance. Instead, the Civitas report uses outdated and inflated cost estimates that wouldn’t be allowed under N.C.’s REPS law and doesn’t reflect the reality of today’s lower costs for renewables.

Here are the facts: the current (annual) “cost caps” are $34 for residential customers; however, the REPS line-item on a customer’s monthly bill has always been well below those cost caps. For example, Duke Energy Carolinas’ residential customers pay $0.54 each month for the REPS, and Duke Energy Progress is $1.17.

It’s shameful that Civitas would claim that the “cost” of N.C.’s REPS law in 2016 is over $1 billion more than the maximum amount allowed under the law’s cost caps.

In contrast, a 2015 analysis of North Carolina’s REPS law by RTI International and ScottMadden closely examined only North Carolina-specific data. The study found that by 2029, the REPS law in North Carolina is expected to save ratepayers $651 million, and generate substantial new economic development opportunities in clean energy.

North Carolina’s citizens and economy are the real winners under our clean energy policies.

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