How badly do some people want to kill even a mild form of support for renewable energy in North Carolina? Badly enough that they’re willing to risk cheating on legislative votes.
It’s really an extraordinary thing to see: The North Carolina Senate Finance Committee was voting last week on a bill that would gut the state’s renewable portfolio standard. The dude with the gavel, Senator Bill Rabon, calls for a voice vote. The “no” votes appear to have it, or at the very least, it’s close. But Rabon bangs his gavel and says the motion carries and, by the way, the hearing is adjourned. Watch it here (the “vote” takes place around the 1:50 mark):
No roll call. No show of hands. No real counting of votes.
So despite an earlier win in a North Carolina House committee, which failed to pass an anti-RPS bill, the state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) still isn’t safe in this legislative session.
But solar advocates say the hearing -- despite the shady way it ended -- actually gave them hope.
“What was most notable about the Committee meeting was not the gamesmanship that allowed the bill to live for another day, but the bipartisan nature of the support expressed for preserving the REPS,” Ivan Urlaub, executive director of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, said in a statement. “It is also telling that North Carolina citizens, businesses, and investors continue to speak out in support of the REPS, as they have each time repeal has been debated at every step along the way.”
The North Carolina RPS requires utilities to source 3 percent of their retail electricity sales from renewables this year, rising gradually to 12.5 percent by 2021, a modest amount compared to, say, California, where investor-owned utilities are at 20 percent now, and must hit 33 percent by 2020.
Because the U.S. lacks a clear-cut national policy on clean energy, renewable portfolio standards at the state level are a key tool in promoting development of solar, wind, bioenergy and other renewables. But opponents are waging a broad assault on the laws (which operate in unique ways but in general terms require utilities to source a growing amount of renewable energy) in a number of states.