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May 26, 2024

General Assembly approves North Carolina energy transition plan

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The North Carolina Assembly has approved a plan to transition to clean energy that lawmakers said ensures the smallest burden on consumers.

Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to sign the bill, which was a result of negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders. Lawmakers said it redirects rate decisions from politicians to industry professionals. Critics, however, said the bill prioritizes corporations over people.

House Bill 951 requires the North Carolina Utilities Commission to find the least expensive but reliable way to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The House approved the measure, 90-20, on Thursday after it cleared the Senate, 42-7 on Wednesday.

“This bill sets in stone the requirement that North Carolina’s electricity be generated using the lowest-cost option available,” Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, said after the bill cleared the Senate. “Whatever that option is – including nuclear, the cleanest form of energy generation known to man – energy producers must adopt it. It’s a big win for families and businesses.”

Blair Reeves, co-founder of progressive think tank Carolina Forward, said the bill would increase consumers’ energy prices and widen the benefits for one of the state’s biggest utility companies, Duke Energy.

“At the same time that Duke Energy is demanding consumer rate increases, the company is also raising its shareholder dividend and has spent close to $3 billion buying back its own stock just in the last year,” Reeves said.

HB 951 requires 45% of solar power to come from a competitive bidding process among independent power producers and 55% from public utility units, which lawmakers said would help reduce costs and encourage innovation.

It directs public utility units to use securitization at 50% to retire coal-fired power plants, which lawmakers said also would reduce cost. It also directs the Utilities Commission to develop multiyear rate plans and performance-based incentives on rate making and make accommodations for low-income consumers.

Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, voted against the bill Thursday. He said the measure is centered around hysteria over climate change and its goals to reduce carbon dioxide are “foolish and unjustifiable.”

“The very idea of anthropogenic climate change is a farce and a fraud,” Pittman said. “Our climate runs through cycles of warming and cooling that are caused by our planet, varying relationship to the sun and sunspots quite independent of our presence and activity, or our absence.”

NASA scientists said they made direct observations on and above Earth’s surface that show the planet’s climate is significantly changing, primarily because of human activity.

Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, said she wished the House took more time to review the measure. Morey estimated the bill could cost North Carolinians’ more than 13% more on their energy bill over the next three years. She fears it will have the biggest effect on low-income ratepayers as current assistant programs have low approval rates.

This article was originally posted on General Assembly approves North Carolina energy transition plan

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