RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – In response to concerns about customers’ electric bills increasing significantly under legislation moving quickly through the General Assembly, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said Tuesday there is some “uncertainty” but that the bill is a “bold step.”
Cooper along with Republicans and Democratic leaders in the legislature are backing the legislation after months of talks with Duke Energy and others that would move the state toward clean-energy goals Cooper has set while creating new ways for the company to request rate increases as it seeks to achieve those goals.
“And when you look at who climate change affects, it affects the most vulnerable people and minority communities the most,” said Cooper. “It’s a bold step. And, sometimes that creates uncertainty. But, it’s a critical step.”
The elected officials announced their agreement with Friday with the goal of passing the bill by the end of this week. Click here to view.
Two Senate committees held hearings on it Tuesday, as some warned that it could ultimately cost low- and moderate-income customers too much.
“We expect to see large rate increases that will be too great for the consumers of North Carolina,” said Kevin Martin, executive director of the Carolina Utility Customers Association. “We pray that we’re wrong about that. But, when we’re not, we will all see every 30 days a friendly reminder from the utility.”
The bill would allow Duke to seek multiyear rate increases instead of one year at a time. It also includes goals for public utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent of 2005 levels by 2030 and to become carbon neutral by 2050.
The state’s Utilities Commission would have to work with energy providers and stakeholders to develop the plan to achieve those goals by the end of 2022.
“This energy legislation charts a course for the future that will ensure cleaner energy and carbon reduction while balancing reliability and affordability,” said Kendal Bowman, vice president of regulatory affairs and policy for Duke Energy.
Under the compromise version of the bill that’s poised to pass this week, the commission would retain the authority to approve rate increases. If Duke sought a multi-year increase, the first year would be tied to the company’s actual costs and revenues while years two and three would be capped at 4 percent.
Because the details of that are left to the commission, Sen. Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) said at this point it would be impossible to say precisely how much more customers may pay in the years ahead because of the bill.
He also said the commission would have “flexibility” in meeting the clean-energy targets set in the bill. “They have discretion to delay the timing of the goals,” he said.
Andrew Hutson, executive director of Audubon North Carolina described the bill as a “big deal.”
“In an era when things feel more divided than ever, we have a bipartisan energy bill that codifies our state’s most aggressive and ambitious clean-energy goals,” he said. “We also know that the costs of inaction on climate are very expensive. Every day we see the toll of wildfires, floods, hurricanes and other extreme weather events.”
The General Assembly is likely to pass the bill by the end of the week.