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.

  • caesar

    Mandate is a stupid law. Get rid of it. Government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in anything!

  • BJ

    Increase it to zero…

  • Matt

    The question of how much renewable power goes onto the grid for public consumption should be a major talking point. Just because a solar or wind power plant is making power doesn’t mean it is needed at that time.

    Electricity is a short-lived commodity. It has zero shelf life. If when you make it there is no need for it, it is gone. Energy production must be viewed as energy potential on the grid. It isn’t until there is a demand that a usable product is produced.
    We all have the potential to be president of the united states, correct?!!!!!! Yet in our history of all the people who have been called an American citizen, there have been 45 people to have that title. So while we all have the potential, and right now there are 320+ million people living in this country, there are 5(?)active or former presidents living. There is only 1 President of the United States. We need ONE president. The other people, while they have the potential cannot BE president right now. Just because we have the potential to be president, does that make us president? Of course not. Just because potential power is created, if it isn’t used, then it is lost. Some could argue that industrial wind and solar are possibly the worst form of power production as they produce power when no one needs it. They produce a product that cannot be used more often than not.

    So the question of how much electricity that is produced by these intermittent power plants also has to be calculated in any mandate discussion. Throw in the overall requirement that the power company MUST be making power when we the customers demand it, and that simply leaves wind and solar as not valid sources for that discussion.
    On a calm and cold winter’s night (happens often), the potential for that Amazon wind power plant and the three operational solar power plants within 7 miles of me will provide zero watts of power. Yet there will be a high demand for power. Honestly, I don’t care where the power comes from just so I don’t freeze and my pipes don’t bust. Some will call me selfish, but when those same people who have children are in the same predicament, watch how they demand power.

    If the wind and solar industry cannot be called distributable power, then there really is no need to mandate power companies to have any power to be generated from these industries.

    Right now, I do see and am excited about the potential for individual homes and businesses putting up non-intrusive systems on their property to offset the power needs as a means of reducing their cost of electricity. Hell, If I had the money, I could see putting solar panels on my roof. I’ve seen turbines that look like fruit trees. Those look exciting. I have 1.3 acres of land. Putting a few of those wind trees up, sure. Individual choice on how I wish to utilize my resources that is not intrusive to my neighbor.

    But should I be so enamored in my zeal for renewable energy that I discount the actual power providing process just so I can push an agenda of go green?

    If the wind and solar made it cheap enough for their product to come to a home, they should focus on that while developing their product with the goal of becoming distributable in the eyes of the Dukes and Dominions. Until they hold that distributable title, they provide so little in the way of actual KWh potential that it is at best a lark to mandate any percentage to be derived from these renewable sources.

  • Glen Thearling

    How much is it really costing to use renewable energy?