Clean energy options are limited. These bills offer two paths into N.C.’s energy future.

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Study utility market reform

As a leader in medical research, digital technology, banking, agribusiness, and manufacturing, North Carolina is growing. However, to ensure our future economic growth, we need to plan for our energy future.

Currently, we are experiencing a shift in consumer demand. While consumers want affordable and reliable energy, they also want increased competition and options for renewable energy.

Unfortunately, since most of our state continues to operate under the same basic market design established nearly 100 years ago, options for competition and cleaner electricity are limited. However, we have an opportunity to influence the existing paradigm, specifically by reconsidering our existing electricity market structure, and planning for our future.

House Bill 611, sponsored by Republican Rep. Larry Strickland, would create a study to examine restructuring the wholesale electricity market in North Carolina to determine what’s in the best interest of ratepayers.

There are market systems that work well, and some that don’t. A study would allow North Carolina to determine best practices and regulatory constructs. That’s not to say should throw out the baby with the bath water, only that a good bath can be refreshing.

Information from the study would then enable policymakers to make an informed decision as they consider how wholesale electricity markets should value renewable energy, promote increased competition and spur innovation.

Now is the time for the N.C. legislature to pass and fund House Bill 611 and for the N.C. Utilities Commission to study the state’s exclusive franchise structure. After all, having more and better information can only improve our future.

James G. Patterson

N.C. Utility Commission member, 2013-2019

James G. Patterson
James G. Patterson

This energy bill needs an overhaul

Moving North Carolina’s energy economy forward should mean bringing all voices, including low-income ratepayers and frontline communities, to the table and crafting a vision that works for everyone.

Because our energy system touches all of our lives, it’s critical that everyone has a say in what our grid looks like. That’s especially true for energy burdened families who pay the most for their power. Integrating those voices in an open process is how we achieve the clean, healthy and affordable energy system envisioned in Gov. Roy Cooper’s Clean Energy Plan.

House Bill 951, an energy bill currently under consideration in the N.C. House, shows why we need input from our most vulnerable neighbors. There are upsides to this bill: House Bill 951 would retire much of Duke Energy’s aging coal fleet and expand solar power, two critical steps for achieving the Clean Energy Plan. These provisions are necessary for any long-term plan for clean, affordable energy in North Carolina.

On affordability and oversight, though, the bill would let the fox guard the henhouse. The bill puts power in utility hands by allowing only utilities to propose new formulas for how they earn money, and eliminate state regulators’ ability to revise them.

Even worse, the bill would replace coal with new, gas-fired power plants without considering cleaner or cheaper alternatives, or allowing regulators’ oversight.

Building a clean energy future requires oversight to ensure that we do not replace dirty coal with uneconomic, health-harming gas, or otherwise put our communities at risk.

Shutting off our dirty and expensive coal plants while rapidly expanding solar power are no-brainers for North Carolina, and they shouldn’t come at the cost of new, unjustified gas plants and less oversight over our energy bills. Now is the time for community members, advocates, industry and legislators to work together to improve this bill and build a brighter clean energy future for North Carolina.

Tyler Fitch,

Regulatory director, Southeast at Vote Solar, a national solar advocacy nonprofit.

Tyler Fitch
Tyler Fitch