By David Avella & North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore | washingtonexaminer.com
July 7, 2021
Can you imagine an America where we are given specific times to heat water, charge our mobile device, or cool our home? As recently as this past February, 14 states required energy companies to start controlled rolling cutoffs of electric service because the demand for power was overwhelming the available generation. In simple terms, rolling blackouts put Americans in the dark without power.
This is why it was no surprise when Morning Consult reported that 73% of U.S. adults believe reliable and affordable electricity should be a top priority of U.S. clean energy policy. At a time when Americans see choice and competition as central to success, congressional Democrats, extreme climate activists, and regulators want energy policies that have government deciding the careers we can have, the food we can eat, and the trips we can take.
The good news is that our country is rapidly getting used to cleaner power. We rely more on renewable energy every day; the EPA’s 2020 annual report on power plant emission trends show that CO2 emissions from the energy sector peaked in 2007 at 2.57 billion tons and declined over the next 13 years by almost one billion tons – a 39% reduction.
Better news is electricity produced by fossil and nuclear fuels is helping the clean energy transition. Because battery storage technologies capable of providing around-the-clock power do not yet exist, fossil fuel and nuclear generation facilities currently provide the “baseload”, or “always on” electricity Americans rely upon during periods when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. If we force them from the marketplace too quickly, the lights may not work when you want, or need, them to most.
Impactful energy solutions are available. Based on their words and actions, congressional Democrats are not interested, which leaves it to the Republican leaders to develop the environment and marketplace solution for reliable, affordable, cleaner energy solutions.
The co-author of this column is determined to have North Carolina showing the path for others to follow. A diverse group of energy policy stakeholders was brought together to confront the challenges facing consumers. The legislation developed will secure decades of reliable, affordable and, yes, cleaner power for North Carolinians.
The Modernize Energy Generation legislation supports a mix of generation technologies that includes new combined cycle natural gas power plants. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, these facilities produce around 60% less carbon than coal plants. The legislation also commits $50 million to facilitate early site permitting for a new, advanced modular nuclear facility – a source of energy that generates zero emissions.
The legislation also provides North Carolina’s public utility commission with important new regulatory options that would require utilities to meet certain efficiency measures and adopt multi-year infrastructure planning.
Utility companies will have to make sacrifices as well. The new energy plan will force the utilities to amortize the stranded cost of decommissioned plants, cap their earnings, and require any earnings above the cap be returned to customers.
By 2035 the Utilities Commission Public Staff estimates this legislation will reduce CO2 emissions in North Carolina by nearly 63% compared to the state’s 2005 CO2 emissions peak. Importantly, when compared to the existing generation system, these variations are inexpensive relative to the Democratic-led approaches taken in California or New York. In 2035, residential customers in North Carolina would pay only $2 to $3 more per month while businesses’ energy costs will increase by less than 2%.
The alternative in North Carolina is Democratic Governor Roy Cooper “California-style” plan which would produce electricity rates that are the highest in the nation. In short, his plan will force residents to pay more for their energy usage to achieve the same CO2 output as the Republican’s Modernize Energy Generation legislation.
Republican have heard the call for reliable, affordable, and cleaner energy. Now is the time to think clearly and act rationally about our country’s energy system. North Carolina is showing there is way to let the market respond for the benefit of consumers.