In a dramatic turn of events that electrified the room, the North Carolina General Assembly’s Public Utilities and Energy Committee yesterday voted down its Chairman’s own bill, House Bill 298, by a very solid bipartisan vote of 18 to 13. Six Republican members, including three from GOP leadership, joined with others from across the aisle to deliver a resounding defeat to the measure, commonly known as the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) repeal bill. The vote’s outcome and the fact that it occurred in the Committee chaired by the bill’s own sponsor, Chairman Mike Hager, not only helps to secure a path forward for continued economic development in the renewable energy sector, it also showed the strength of the voices from across the state that spoke out against the misguided effort to have North Carolina turn away from a promising clean energy future.
“This vote to defeat the REPS repeal bill was not just a good outcome, it was the right outcome,” said Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director of the NC Sustainable Energy Association. “North Carolina businesses, ratepayers, workers, and state and local economies all had a stake in this outcome, and they all won a victory today.”
The bill’s failure to make it out of Committee seemed to signal the state’s increasing recognition of the economic virtues behind its current suite of clean energy policies. The lopsided vote which enjoyed a closing of ranks from Democrats and senior Republicans alike set clean energy forward as among an elite group of issues; those with true bipartisan appeal and wide popularity among the public. With REPS as a pivotal battleground, clean energy gained further ground from this action over detractors looking to push a regressive agenda that would have starved renewable energy companies of investment dollars and left ratepayers at the mercy of an electricity market without true choice or competition.
Following the course of the bill since its introduction, discussion and careful examination did not seem to be a friend to it. The longer the bill was examined and the more time that members had to hear from their constituents and local businesses, the worse it fared. H 298’s demise in Committee reflected the concern that members increasingly spoke to during the hearing regarding the lack of data to support the bill’s approach, and the negative impact it would likely have on companies and ratepayers alike.
This bill to walk North Carolina away from its clean energy gains and repeal the REPS has had its day, and its day is done. Now it is time to move forward.
— Solar Builder magazine