Library filed under Taxes & Subsidies from North Carolina
The big news yesterday was that Republicans included no version of an extension of North Carolina’s 35% renewable energy tax credit in the budget compromise worked out by the Senate and House leadership. It will end, effectively, Dec. 31. But with the budget document finally available after months of delay, it seems clear that the leadership has dropped plans to freeze the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard.
A compromise budget reached by Republicans in the state House and Senate, set to be announced Monday afternoon, will not include any provision to extend the credit or allow it to be reduced in steps over the next two years, sources say. It appears that a tax credit supporting renewable energy in North Carolina will be allowed to expire.
But in order to secure the financing needed to begin construction this year, the 300-megawatt Desert Wind Energy Project wind farm near Elizabeth City needs to have a long-term contract with an electric utility so it can generate revenue by selling its power output to that utility. If it doesn't fall through, the Desert Wind project would be one of the largest such projects in the country.
For years, environmental advocates have pushed for North Carolina to require its power companies to use a set amount of renewable energy sources, such as wind energy, solar energy or animal waste. This year, that might happen - but the bill that would do it also includes provisions that some advocates say would hurt the environment by encouraging more coal and nuclear power plants. The bill, which was overwhelmingly approved by the N.C. Senate, is now being studied by the N.C. House of Representatives. It would require Duke Energy and Progress Energy to generate a significant amount of their electricity through renewable sources. The bill is expected to face a tougher fight in the House than it did in the Senate. The House energy committee is scheduled to hold a three-hour public comment period on the bill today in Raleigh at 3 p.m.
RALEIGH - It's hard to run a business when nobody wants to buy what you're selling. Some businesses have found a way around this obstacle: Get the government on your side. This is the reality in the renewable energy industry, where excessively high prices keep the industry from being competitive. North Carolina has a voluntary program, called NC GreenPower, which allows the public to voluntarily support renewable energy. The participation rate has been dismal. Renewable energy sold through the program accounts for only about .01 percent of all electricity sold in the state. The state Senate passed Senate Bill 3 since North Carolinians won't voluntarily support renewable energy. Apparently, the state Senate thinks people must be forced to support renewable energy against their will.
RALEIGH - Are you willing to pay higher electricity rates to support renewable energy? If so, you're one of only about 10,000 people in North Carolina who is. That's because the well-publicized N.C. Green Power program has given state residents an ample opportunity to buy power derived from sources such as solar, wind and hog waste. Yet only 10,000 have signed up, or about .01 percent of the population. As a referendum on renewable energy, N.C. Green Power is a pretty clear indication North Carolinians aren't interested. Yet legislators are gearing up to force people to buy energy from renewable sources ($10 per month worth, phased in to as much as $30 per month later). So in what has become business-as-usual, the General Assembly is set to introduce yet another hidden tax that, if passed, will mandate that 8-plus million of us buy what we have elected not to buy -- expensive energy with negligible environmental benefits.
Under direction from the state Environmental Review Commission, the N.C. Utilities Commission sponsored a study to analyze the costs and benefits of a Renewable Portfolio Standard. If adopted by the legislature, an RPS would require the state’s three investor-owned utilities to generate a portion of their electricity from renewable sources by a given date. The Utilities Commission paid $150,000 to Boston-based contractor La Capra to conduct the study, which is due out this week.
Hager, a former Duke Energy engineer beginning his second term in the House, argues the mandate unfairly forces utility customers to subsidize renewable energy, which costs more than traditional forms. He says that runs against state policy ordering utilities to provide “least cost” electricity.