Utility Dive: North Carolina legislature retools Duke-backed bill after Dems, Governor protest weakened oversight
June 23, 2021
Utility Dive reporter, Catherine Morehouse has posted an article about the status of House Bill (HB) 951, saying that North Carolina House Republicans are going back to the drawing board this week after Democrats and other stakeholders opposed the original version. Those opposing the bill, including Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, say the bill is too costly, weakens regulatory oversight, and lacks ambition on clean energy and emissions reductions.
HB 951 is a proposed comprehensive energy bill that was introduced last week after months of stakeholder negotiations. But some groups involved in the negotiations, including the North Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (NCMA), have concerns about the bill. Utility Dive reports that the principle concern shared by the renewables industry, manufacturing industry, environmental groups, Democratic legislators, and Governor Cooper are provisions that dilute the authority of the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). The NCUC oversees utility rate hikes, long-term resource plans, unit retirements, and more.
“The bill takes away long-standing utilities commission authorities — authorities that are in place to protect not just ratepayers, but also the utility, to balance the risks between those parties,” said Preston Howard, president of the North Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.
Other concerns about the bill include provisions to:
- Treat the remaining costs of retired coal plant as a regulatory assess, depreciating those costs over time without having to prove reasonable and prudent costs to state regulators and therefore be absorbed by ratepayers.
- Expedite process for utility to attain a certificate of public convenience and necessity to prove the worth of infrastructure investments to the NCUC so that it can absorb those costs in its rate-base
- Recover through securitization only $200 million of the $5 billion in book value remaining on coal plants Duke would retire under this bill limiting the value for ratepayers.
The recovery of only $200 million through securitization is “not even remotely close enough for our guys to get on board,” Howard told Utility Dive.
Governor Cooper said in a statement opposing the bill that the legislation “would cost ratepayers too much, fall short of clean energy goals, hamper job recruitment, and weaken the Utilities Commission which exists to provide accountability for utilities companies.”
Duke Energy called the initial negotiations with the renewables industry, industrial consumer groups and Republicans the “first step” of the legislative process.
Utility Dive quoted an email from utility spokesperson Grace Rountree saying, “As we help chart our state’s transition away from coal, we look forward to continuing our work with stakeholders, policymakers and Governor Cooper as policy changes evolve. We hope everyone can agree that the time is now to accelerate efforts to transition away from coal, protect North Carolinians from price spikes and ensure continued affordability and reliability all of us depend on.”
North Carolina legislature retools Duke-backed bill after Dems, Governor protest weakened oversight
by Catherine Morehouse • Utility Dive • June 22, 2021