Under the Dome

Effort to repeal renewable energy policy defeated in House

The latest attempt to repeal the state’s policy of promoting renewable energy was defeated Wednesday, once again through bipartisan opposition.

In 2007, the General Assembly required electric companies to increasingly include renewable energy sources such as solar and wind in their mix. The law includes subsidies for power companys.

House Bill 681, titled the N.C. Energy Ratepayers Protection Act, would have frozen at the current level the requirement to increase renewable energy use, and roll back the cap on costs that power suppliers are allowed to recover. It would also require only the use of renewables that can be justified in a “least cost mix.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Chris Millis, a second-term Republican who represents Onslow and Pender counties, said the policy benefitted special interests at the expense of ratepayers. Millis, a civil engineer, said he was open to all sources of energy but not government subsidizing one over another, which he said ultimately harms those least able to afford it due to increased costs.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Republican from Cary, said the 2007 law wasn’t perfect but it was created with extensive input from dozens of interests. Substantial private investments were made on the basis of that law, he said.

A representative of the state Utilities Commission, in response to a question from Dollar, said utility rates are not typically affected by the cost of the renewable energy program; rather, large capital improvements and growing demand cause increases.

Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Democrat from Greensboro, said the renewable energy portfolio standard was a boost for North Carolina during a bleak economic phase. The Environmental Defense Fund says the solar industry in North Carolina has led to more than $2 billion in direct investment and 4,300 jobs at 450 companies.

A motion to approve the bill lost 16-14, with four Republicans opposing it.

Rep. Mike Hager, a Republican from Rutherfordton, was a co-sponsor of the bill. He has tried unsuccessfully to change the policy previously.

Americans for Prosperity, a free-market group that opposes the policy, called for passage of the bill.