Ivan Urlaub: Affordable power bill in NC begins with clean energy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 5, 2019

By Ivan Urlaub

Roughly $375 million.

That’s how much North Carolinians are expected to save by Duke Energy purchasing solar power from independent power producers over the next 20 years, according to an April report submitted to the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

We can thank clean energy and House Bill 589 for these savings.

North Carolina has a responsible history of designing clean energy policies that cost less than business as usual and bring more jobs and economic benefit across our state. Since 2009, North Carolina’s clean energy policies, like the Renewable Energy and Efficiency Portfolio Standard, have repeatedly delivered on their promise to be lower in cost than utility business as usual.

Though it’s been argued that Duke Energy is resisting efforts to raise customer electricity rates, the company’s own actions say otherwise.

Duke Energy’s most recent 15-year plan (called the Integrated Resource Plan) is right now being evaluated by the Utilities Commission. An alternative plan filed with the commission shows that Duke’s business as usual plan will overspend and overcharge us, their customers, an extra $1.5 billion.

Duke’s plans will force uneconomic coal plants to run even though doing so is not necessary to keep the lights on, and Duke’s plan will emit at least twice as much pollution while continuing to be unresponsive to the needs of our state’s citizens and largest employers.

Just a few weeks ago, Senate Bill 559 (House Bill 624) was introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly. This legislation, which establishes multiyear rate plans without any accountability or efficiency metrics, brings us dangerously close to writing Duke Energy a blank check that further reduces transparency in an already opaque system.

Duke Energy supports this legislation, and with such enticing incentives to overspend and overcharge customers, it’s not hard to see why.

We all need to be asking what needs to change in law and regulation before we are locked into another decade of billions in overspending that won’t provide the energy services we need, the savings that clean energy can reliably deliver and local economic opportunities we should all be able to reasonably expect.

Aligning interests is the only responsible way forward. A smarter energy future will not be found in the utility status quo.

North Carolina deserves better. The alternative is more affordable, just as reliable, and ready now.

Ivan Urlaub is executive director of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association.