Last week, US Senator Mitch McConnell successfully killed a 15% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) in the Energy Bill by arguing that an RPS would disadvantage southern states, who have thus far avoided RPS's due to cost. Those of us that study the cost of new baseload coal and nuclear plants vs. clean alternative energy were nauseated. The fact is that energy efficiency and renewables are cheaper than new nuclear and coal plants. The cost of climate change was not discussed. We can't wait for Congress. It's time for NC to adopt a Renewable and Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), and like 23 other states, show leadership on addressing the global climate crisis.
NC Senate Bill 3 (12.5% REPS) passed this week and heads to the House. It needs our support. SB3 mandates that 12.5% of our energy will come from clean renewables and energy efficiency by 2021. NC would become the first state in the Southeast to adopt an REPS and would offset 150 million metric tons of CO2 annually. Instead of two more years of inaction, we would lead the Southeast out of the fossil fuel quagmire.
As expected, the Utilities did their best to kill SB3 by attaching baseload provisions to this landmark bill. The most offensive provision allows the utilities to argue before the NC Utilities Commission that ratepayers should finance construction work in progress (CWIP), even if new baseload plants never generate a single kilowatt for ratepayers. It does not guarantee CWIP financing, but it does create that possibility.
It is absolutely correct to oppose public financing of polluting plants and there will be ample opportunity to do so -- in this session, in future legislative sessions, and at the NCUC. Unfortunately, the Utilities will not support the REPS Bills -- H77 or S3 -- without baseload provisions. We need them for the REPS to pass, just as we needed them to pass "Clean Smokestacks." This trade is worth making.
The Utilities will get CWIP with or without the REPS in the next two years (neighboring states already have it). This is the big question that a few of us have spent the past several weeks studying. If that is so, it is significant, because it means that we will be fighting the Utilities either WITH with an REPS or without one over the next several years. We are far stronger with an REPS than without one. Many states with an RPS have beaten and increased their goals, substantiating their case against more baseload.
We could comfortably beat our projections for EE and RE in NC. That fact will be considered by the NCUC when it takes up CWIP and Certificates of Convenience (permits). Without an REPS, we argue from data outside NC, which NC Legislators always discount. For years, the Utilities have argued that NC has NO commercial utility-scale renewable resource and limited opportunity for EE. With an REPS, we can prove otherwise. If we do, the case for a new nuclear or coal plant in seriously undermined.
Let's oppose CWIP, but support and pass an REPS. Hopefully, the bill will be improved in the House before the final votes. If not, and if it passes, we will pile on in unison against new baseload, with RE and EE successes in our quiver, at every future NCUC hearing. Without an REPS, we are back to begging for crumbs with no leverage or proof of alternatives.
Ask your representatives to support SB3 and H77.