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Opinion Letters Energy rates bill a promising ray of light

The N.C. General Assembly is confronting many urgent and contentious issues in the 2011 session. Among these are the budget shortfall, redistricting and a trough-full of social issues arising as the result of the power shift of the last election. But, one very promising ray of light appearing through the haze of political maneuvering is the introduction of House Bill 135 and Senate Bill 367. These companion bills each are entitled “The Efficient and Affordable Energy Rates Bill.” There are currently 14 legislators who have attached their names to these bills as sponsors, including Western North Carolina House members Patsy Keever and Susan Fisher.

Just as the invention of solid-state technology attracted little attention in the popular press at the time it was first announced, the new approach to energy policy addressed by H135/S367 is catching the news media asleep, although its implications are potentially profound and positive for everyone living today. This pending legislation outlines a new system of developing utility rate structures in North Carolina. What could seem more dull and uninteresting than that!

But, just as the transistor changed the world in which we live, so, too, can H135/S367.

Current energy policy in North Carolina is based on the assumption that economic growth can only occur with a parallel growth in energy consumption and production. It follows that to prepare for the future we must allow the utility industry to build a new generation of coal and nuclear power plants to meet future electricity demand. Since banks and other lending institutions consider these power plants too large a risk in which to invest, the State of North Carolina, as of 2007, decided to force ratepayers to take the risk. For instance, Duke Energy is now asking the Utilities Commission to raise its North Carolina customer's rates to pay for more than 400 million dollars in planning expenses for a new nuclear power plant in Gaffney, South Carolina.

But, H135/S367 reverses the assumption our state energy policy is based upon. This legislation recognizes the reality that economic growth is not synonymous with growth in energy consumption and the expansion of environmentally destructive methods of producing energy. In fact, the new frontier of energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy resources holds the greatest potential for economic growth since the beginning of the industrial revolution. By restructuring utility rates to reward investment in efficiency H135/S367 reverses our current path and sets the stage for a new industrial revolution.

If you would like to see this happen your legislators need to hear from you now.

H135/S367 can be viewed online at http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2011/Bills/House/PDF/H135v1.pdf

For more information visit http://www.canarycoalition.org/

Avram Friedman
Executive Director of the Canary Coalition


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