Under the Dome

Radio ad campaign urges Senate freeze renewable energy growth

A national free-market energy advocacy organization is launching a campaign in North Carolina this week to persuade lawmakers to freeze the requirement that utilities use increasing amounts of renewable energy.

The American Energy Alliance, which The New York Times reports is financed by Koch Industries and other fossil fuel industries, is singling out four Republican state legislators: Sen. Fletcher Hartsell of Concord, Sen. Brent Jackson of Autryville, Sen. Jerry Tillman of Archdale and Sen. Andy Wells of Hickory.

Republicans have been split on the issue. Those who want to freeze the renewable energy portfolio where it is object to what they consider a government subsidy that will drive electricity rates. Environmentalists and the renewable energy industry say the freeze would harm a growing industry in the state, and dispute the claim of increased costs.

House Bill 332 has been approved in the House and is waiting for the Senate to take it up. It would freeze the current rate at 6 percent of all retail sales, instead of increasing to 10 percent in 2018 and 12.5 percent from 2021 on.

The American Energy Alliance didn’t disclose the amount it is spending on a series of radio ads that will be aired in Raleigh, Fayetteville and Charlotte.

“This program has burdened North Carolinians with higher energy prices, less money in their pockets, and fewer jobs,” AEA President Tom Pyle said in a statement the organization released Wednesday. “In fact, the only beneficiaries of this program are the special interests who are financially vested in green energy technology.”

The American Energy Alliance, which is a nonprofit group that doesn’t disclose its donors, spent more than $1 million on election ads in 2012, according to Open Secrets.