Solar and renewable energy standards in general have come under increasing attack in the past year as fossil-fuel companies and some utilities are starting to feel the heat and competition from renewable energy generation. Few places have seen such vicious attacks as North Carolina, where Republican legislators pushed legislation forward through committees, despite overwhelming outcries against bills that would have repealed the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). But even there, the bill that would have gutted the RPS finally failed to move forward, revealing that such tactics aren’t popular with the public.
Earlier this month, S365, which would have repealed the state’s RPS was moved out of the Senate Finance Committee by Republican State Senators and committee co-chairs Bill Rabon and Bob Rucho on a controversial voice vote. Moving it out of committee allowed the legislation to move forward toward a full Senate vote. However, that didn’t happen. The bill failed to pass out of the Senate Commerce Committee. Meanwhile its companion bill in the House, H298, failed to pass out of a committee there.
“The march of two legislative vehicles intended to repeal North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards law, H298 in the House and S365 in the Senate, has stalled out for the time being, leaving both bills stuck in committee,” wrote Lowell Sachs, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) spokesperson. “There has been no further action on H298 since April 24, when it was defeated by a vote of 13–18 in the House Public Utilities and Energy Committee.” As such, both bills failed to make a May 16 deadline called the ‘cross-over’ deadline, preventing either piece of legislation from moving forward.
The bills were based on model legislation developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), dubbed the Electricity Freedom Act. ALEC is a conservative-backed, free-market think tank that boasts some 2,000 conservative legislators across the country. Its legislative energy task force is chaired by the Koch brothers, BP, ExxonMobile and other supporters of fossil-fuel based energy.
The legislation alleges that RPSs are costing rate-payers money and calls for the repeal of such standards. To date, it’s some of the strongest legislation that pushes back against renewable energy standards, and has been introduced in 19 of the 29 states (and Washington, DC) that have the energy standard in place.
In North Carolina, where both houses of legislature and the Governorship are dominated by Republicans, maybe it would seem a forgone conclusion that such legislation would pass. But some members of the Republican party are apparently doubtful that the state’s RPS is so bad even if others enjoy ALEC’s Kool-aid.
Likewise, the state’s citizens support expansion of renewables. “A recent statewide public opinion survey conducted by Fallon Research found that 75.7 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats, and 81.6 percent of Independents (82.6 percent overall) said state leaders and elected officials in North Carolina should seek more alternative or renewable energy sources in order to provide consumers and businesses with electricity,” NCSEA said earlier this year.