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Energy bill OK'd in House

Aug. 1--RALEIGH -- North Carolina is on the verge of becoming the first state in the Southeast to require that a significant portion of its electricity come from sources of renewable energy. But the same bill that will mandate more solar and wind energy also contains a provision that environmentalists say will promote the construction of coal and nuclear-power plants. And critics say that the bill could hurt electricity consumers and have other environmentally detrimental effects.

Aug. 1--RALEIGH -- North Carolina is on the verge of becoming the first state in the Southeast to require that a significant portion of its electricity come from sources of renewable energy.

But the same bill that will mandate more solar and wind energy also contains a provision that environmentalists say will promote the construction of coal and nuclear-power plants. And critics say that the bill could hurt electricity consumers and have other environmentally detrimental effects.


The landmark bill, widely described as one of the state's most significant changes in energy policy in decades, was given final approval by the N.C. House of Representatives yesterday. The N.C. Senate has previously approved a similar version. The bill will require that North Carolina's two major power companies, Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy, get at least 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources or energy-conservation measures by 2021.

Under the bill, residential electric rates could increase by as much as $10 a year in 2008 and $34 a year by 2015 to pay for the renewable-energy requirements.

A separate provision, which was inserted into the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Aug. 1--RALEIGH -- North Carolina is on the verge of becoming the first state in the Southeast to require that a significant portion of its electricity come from sources of renewable energy.

But the same bill that will mandate more solar and wind energy also contains a provision that environmentalists say will promote the construction of coal and nuclear-power plants. And critics say that the bill could hurt electricity consumers and have other environmentally detrimental effects.


The landmark bill, widely described as one of the state's most significant changes in energy policy in decades, was given final approval by the N.C. House of Representatives yesterday. The N.C. Senate has previously approved a similar version. The bill will require that North Carolina's two major power companies, Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy, get at least 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources or energy-conservation measures by 2021.

Under the bill, residential electric rates could increase by as much as $10 a year in 2008 and $34 a year by 2015 to pay for the renewable-energy requirements.

A separate provision, which was inserted into the bill at the urging of power companies, will allow customers to be billed for the costs of new coal and nuclear plants while the plants are still under construction.

The provision makes it easier for companies to finance the risky and expensive construction of new plants, because it shifts the financing risk from Wall Street investors to North Carolina's electricity customers.

Duke Energy and Progress Energy, who are among the biggest supporters of the bill, say that the financing part of the bill is necessary because alternative energy sources alone will not be able to keep up with the state's growing demand for electricity. They also say that easing the financing of coal and nuclear plants will ultimately benefit customers because the overall costs of new plants will go down.

Some legislators disagree.

"It's a stockholder-protection measure," said state Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham. "It's going to put a nuclear-power plant on line probably faster than it otherwise would."

At the national level, Congress is engaged in a similar debate over its own major energy legislation. Some in Congress have proposed a 20 percent renewable-energy standard -- higher than the 12.5 percent standard in North Carolina's bill.

But a one-sentence, little-noticed provision in a bill approved by the U.S. Senate could allow power companies to get billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees for new nuclear plants, The New York Times reported yesterday. As with the controversial financing provision in North Carolina's bill, the provision in the national bill was inserted at the behest of the power industry with little debate, the Times reported.

"It speaks to the terrible economics of new nuclear that it seems to need such massive public subsidies," Molly Diggins, the director of the N.C. Sierra Club, said yesterday.

On the floor of the N.C. House yesterday, a few legislators made a last-ditch effort to get their colleagues to oppose the energy bill or at least to amend it. But the House overwhelmingly approved the bill without changes. It is expected to be sent to Gov. Mike Easley soon, once the House and Senate reconcile several differences between their versions.

Many legislators who voted for the bill said that although they are wary of the parts that are friendly to power companies, they believe that it is critical for North Carolina to get some renewable-energy standards in place so that the state can reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and help fight global warming.

"Unless we get a bill in place, unless we get a base laid down, nothing's going to happen," said Rep. Cullie Tarleton, D-Watauga.

Environmentalists have complained about the way the bill was written. Although it originally focused only on renewable energy, it was overhauled in informal meetings attended mostly by lobbyists. It then moved quickly through the Senate with little formal scrutiny.

On the House side, legislators have spent more time examining the bill and have held long public forums, in which many groups have raised objections. A House committee inserted several environmental protections into the bill, but left the main substance unchanged.

In addition to their concerns about the provision on power-plant financing, environmentalists are worried about the increased use of swine waste and other alternative energy sources that may have harmful side effects on the environment.

Renewable energy includes solar and wind energy, as well as energy generated from the burning of wood and animal waste, such as swine waste or poultry litter.

"Some of those (swine-waste) systems can be used to produce energy, but they also produce ammonia, odor, water-quality problems and pathogens. So we're at a crossroads," Diggins said.

As renewable energy becomes more widespread, Northwest North Carolina will likely generate a large amount of it. A company wants to build a poultry-litter plant in Wilkes, Surry or Alexander counties. And a proposal for a wind farm in Ashe County set off a firestorm before the application was dismissed last week.

 



Source: http://uaelp.pennnet.com/ne...

AUG 1 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/10396-energy-bill-ok-d-in-house
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