News: CJ Exclusives

Legislation would freeze renewable energy mandate

Dixon/Bell bill would cap mandate at 8 percent of energy purchases; state official says utilities should be able to reach that goal

Birds gather near the turbines at the Amazon Wind Farm near Elizabeth City. Energy from the 208-megawatt project is not counted as part of the state's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)
Birds gather near the turbines at the Amazon Wind Farm near Elizabeth City. Energy from the 208-megawatt project is not counted as part of the state's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, wants to scale back North Carolina’s renewable energy mandates and find out how much renewable power actually goes on the grid.

A bill he co-sponsored along with House Majority Leader John Bell of Wayne County would do that. House Bill 267, filed Tuesday, would reduce the 2018 target to 8 percent of retail sales by the state’s three public electricity utilities — Duke Energy Carolina, Duke Energy Progress, and Dominion North Carolina Power — and cap it at 8 percent. Electric membership corporations and municipal utilities also would be capped at 8 percent.

Under current law, the mandate would rise from today’s 6 percent level to 10 percent in 2018 and 12.5 percent in 2021.

North Carolina was the first state in the Southeast to establish a renewable energy mandate with the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards, part of 2007’s Senate Bill 3. Twenty-nine states have similar mandates.

The law requires the electric public utility companies to increase gradually the percentage of electricity they produce or purchase from renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind. Energy efficiency improvements also are counted in the REPS.

“My purpose for the bill was that the 12.5 percent was a random target. We have 10 years of experience with the data so we should have a better idea what is the best level of renewables for North Carolina,” Dixon told Carolina Journal.

“As far as we know, the companies are on track to meet the 10 percent by 2018, so they should be able to meet the lower goal of 8 percent,” said James McLawhorn, director of the electrical division of the public staff of the North Carolina Utilities Commission. He monitors utility company compliance with REPS.

McLawhorn said electricity from the massive new 208-megawatt Amazon Wind Farm near Elizabeth City should not be included in the state’s renewable energy portfolio.

“My understanding is that since Amazon is claiming the electricity is for its use, the electricity at the Amazon Wind Farm is not counted toward the renewable standards for any North Carolina electric utility,” he said.

Dixon, a turkey farmer, takes issue with the popular designation for the Amazon site. “First of all, it is not a farm. It is a wind facility,” he said. He said he was unaware that electricity produced by the Amazon turbines was not counted in the state’s renewable energy portfolio.