RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — After months of work behind closed doors, North Carolina lawmakers discussed a plan that would overhaul the state’s power grid, but the catch is the cost.
Many lawmakers only got their hands on the 47-page bill, which has a lot of moving parts, 36 hours before the hearing.
“I think what we need to do is step back and think about what we’re doing here,” said Rep. Dean Arp (R).
If there’s one thing republicans and democrats in the North Carolina General Assembly agree on it’s that there’s a need to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.
“The cost of coal is going up,” said Rep. Arp.
HB951 seeks to shutter five of the seven coal-fired powerplants in the state and repurpose them to burn natural gas and store up to 5000 megawatts of solar energy, but to do so the state would pay Duke Energy millions.
“To accelerate the retirement cost something,” said Rep. Arp.
Republicans believe these steps would reduce emissions by up to 61 percent.
The unknown cost of the project has Democrats questioning if the bill will go far enough in reducing emissions.
“It’s interesting in me that there’s not a mention of climate in the bill,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison (D).
“I’m not saying that this bill is perfect,” said Rep. John Szoka (R).
In a statement Gov. Roy Cooper says that HB951 would cost ratepayers too much, fall short of his clean energy goals, and weaken the utilities commission.
“For us to achieve the overall goals of what we want to reduce carbon, to increase renewables, there may be a slight increase in cost,” said Rep. Szoka.
Republican sponsors of the bill said it could be a week or more before they are able to give an accurate estimate of how much HB951 would cost.