North Carolina has an energy bill – Energy Solutions for North Carolina. The vote in the Senate Wednesday followed a huge public debate, sparked by Governor Cooper’s 2019 Clean Energy Plan. The House voted on the compromise bill and Cooper now has it to sign.

Everyone seems to get something, no one got everything asked. Seems to be the essence of the give-and-take of our system, or should be.

There are some cries of foul or of happiness, shrill in some cases, which mark our public debate culture. (A WRAL-TV headline sedately says it all: Energy bill either transformative for NC or too costly for consumers, depending on whom you ask.)

What stands out to me?

Reduces carbon: “The bill gives the North Carolina Utilities Commission until the end of next year to create a plan to reduce energy producers’ carbon dioxide output 70% from 2005 levels by 2030, and achieve zero-net CO2 emissions by 2050.” (Source)

The goal of reducing carbon is terrific. Ought to be a quicker deadline, in my opinion. That will happen, I bet.

As companies work through the exercise they will improve their own operations, just as with the quality movement in industry.

Maintains state regulation: From NC’s website: “The North Carolina Utilities Commission is an agency … to regulate the rates and services of all investor-owned public utilities in North Carolina.”

Happily, the energy bill has the NCUC doing what it is supposed to do. At a time when some states want to cede authority to regional energy groups, it is good to see that state officials will make decisions for the state’s citizens.

Allows companies to run the operations: Regulators should regulate. Businesspeople should make business decisions. Earlier drafts of the bill said when to shut down certain plants. That is not the business of the state. (Remember, South Carolina has actually been in the electric business with its power company. Something less than a success.)

Regulators should set goals and have technical and financial professionals find the most efficient route to those goals. So it seems good to me that the Competitive Procurement of Renewable Energy program lapses. That mandated solar. I like solar and feel it is an important part of our future energy system. I do not think that certain energy sources ought to be mandated by a team of non-energy-proficient people, like legislators. Instead, go where the tech leads you.

Provides multi-year rates: This had people screaming about Duke Energy and a “giveaway”. I don’t see it that way. There are mechanisms to hold any problem in check.

In an industry as capital intensive as power, there must be multi-year planning to build and maintain the system. That means some way to plan revenue.

When a regular citizen buys a house, he or she typically has a job and they anticipate receiving a dependable salary to pay the mortgage and upkeep. I see the multi-year rate issue as the same kind of thing.

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A ten-page North Carolina bill is not like a 50-page bill. Maybe that is good and allows for more open dialogue rather than a complex check-the-box proscriptive energy system designed in policymaker conference rooms.