The General Assembly is caught up in a possible overhaul of the state’s commitment to renewable energy. A bill moving through the state legislature would scale back the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS).
REPS are important because they mandate how much renewable energy a company like Duke Energy produces as a part of its total electricity sales.
A law enacted in 2007 set Duke Energy’s REPS at six percent. That is planned to increase to:
- 10 percent in 2018 and
- 12.5 percent in 2021
But House Bill 332 aims to halt North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard at six percent. Environmentalists are calling the measure a step backwards for solar energy in North Carolina, which ranks first in the Southeast, according to a Duke University study. In recent years, North Carolina has invested about $2 billion in the solar industry, but that growth is expected to stop with this bill.
Meanwhile, lawmakers say it is an effort to even the corporate playing field and protect electricity rates for low-income customers. But while almost all Democrats want the solar energy rates to continue increasing, Republicans are split.
“Rural Republicans say, 'Solar energy is the only thing coming to my county. It is the only thing generating jobs, the only thing generating any kind of industrial development,'” said Dave DeWitt, WUNC Environmental Reporter. “They want to keep it and they are the ones who have been fighting over whether these REPS will be repealed or not.”
The measure has passed in the House is expected to make its way to the Senate next week.