After months of closed-door negotiations, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have unveiled a long-awaited clean energy bill that would set utility Duke Energy on a path to close its coal-fired power plants by 2030 and expand the scope of solar development in the state.
But that’s about all in the bill that’s pleasing to environmental groups, consumer advocates and corporate energy buyers hoping for a much broader legislative package to address the state’s clean energy future.
In fact, some aspects of the bill could take away state authority to restrain Duke Energy from building gigawatts’ worth of natural gas power plants to replace coal plants, or from shifting growing capital costs onto ratepayers with reduced regulatory oversight, critics say. Other aspects of the GOP-sponsored bill set up a conflict with the clean energy agenda of Governor Roy Cooper (D).
That’s why North Carolina energy stakeholders consider House Bill 951, introduced Wednesday, as an opening salvo in what’s expected to be a much more contentious public battle over the state’s energy future in the months and years to come.
“The proposal appears to be a recipe for a more expensive and more polluting energy system than North Carolinians deserve,” David Kelly, senior manager of the Environmental Defense Fund’s North Carolina political affairs unit, said in a statement.
[Jeff St. John]