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Carolina Energy 2019: More Collaboration?

From Scott Carlberg

What should Carolinians expect, ask for, or watch for in their energy world in 2019? Energy Consumers of the Carolinas asked a handful of energy professionals.

The year can be a pivot point in energy. This column is about collaboration, and how 2019 could be a year when available technology matches up with policy. If that happens, consumers can gain energy convenience and savings.

For instance, one opinion piece said, “2019 will be litmus test for electric vehicles,” noting that the crossroads of technology and policy can be a challenge. “A perfect storm looms on the horizon with international tariffs, shrinking tax credits, legislation seeking taxes on electric vehicles and the creation of a viable national electric-charging grid. … These issues will confront an influx of new electric sedans, crossovers and sport utility vehicles that automotive manufacturers have spent billions developing.

David Doctor

Policymakers have to be the foundation to open up energy opportunities, however. North Carolina has faced such a challenge before. David Doctor, who leads energy trade association E4 Carolinas said there can be positive news on this front: “In 2019 North Carolina will begin to again collaborate in the continued development of renewable energy resources. A decade ago this occurred when all stakeholders joined to create North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard and the incentives to bring the industry into prominence. Recently, however, due to the lack of power demand growth (the ‘pie’ is not growing) and a lack of rewards for utilities to provide service, stakeholders have become factionalized, pursuing their own, rather than the North Carolina power market’s general interest. Fingers have been pointed and parties deemed ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, leading to conflict, rather than collaboration.”

ECC notes that South Carolina, already debating Santee Cooper and VC Summer, can have even more on its energy plate. The Aiken newspaper reported: “Once again, a South Carolina lawmaker has predicted energy policy to be a major stake for the Legislature in the new year. ‘You cannot talk about the 2019 legislative preview without mentioning energy policy,’ state Sen. Tom Young. ‘So the big issue is whether or not the sale of Santee Cooper, if that was to occur, would it be in the best interest of not only the ratepayers of Santee Cooper, but also the taxpayers of South Carolina,’ Young elaborated. The senator said energy-related topics, solar energy included, keep cropping up and garnering attention because of the shared complexity and related repercussions.” 2019 can easily be the year when a lot of decisions are made, not just discussed, in South Carolina.

NC: Common ground on renewables?

Regarding work on renewable energy in North Carolina, said David Doctor, “2019 will be the inflection point in this trend and stakeholders will again begin to find common ground. Stakeholders will recognize that the move to establish renewable energy as part of North Carolina’s power portfolio has succeeded. Attention will turn from ‘whether’ renewable energy to ‘how’ renewable energy advances with most attention focused positively on utility grid operation, evolution and services.”

State energy actions in energy are anticipated following the midterm elections, in some states more than others. Bloomberg News pointed out Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Maine, and New Mexico in particular. The Carolinas were not noted. ECC would have hoped that the Carolinas would be cited for policy insights that keep electric consumers top-of-mind. (Consumers. Not a particular party or technology.) 

Following the midterm elections, policymakers are set for a while and could look at working collaboratively. Electric technologies offer new kinds of customer options; policymakers have no elections in 2019. So does this open the door for action? State-level actions have the benefit of being closer-to-home than federal policymakers, perhaps a bit more accessible to consumers. People can stay on top of headlines and theirs voices ought to be heard. ECC will do its part in that education process.