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How North Carolina’s Energy Bill Can Lower Energy Bills

North Carolina Skyline at Sunset

In the fight for decarbonization and cleaner energy solutions, each state is working at their own pace to improve their environment. One of the latest states to approve changes to the power structure is North Carolina through NC Bill 951. This bipartisan energy bill is designed to attract more energy jobs, protect families and combat climate change. Some say it’s not enough, as with all compromises, there was some give and take needed to reach the bill’s final version. But overall, through this bill and other incentives, North Carolina is now on its way to better energy options and lower energy bills.

Before diving into the details of this new legislation, let’s take a look at the energy profile of North Carolina as it currently stands.

THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA’S ELECTRICAL ENERGY

North Carolina’s energy mix includes nuclear energy (31 percent), natural gas (33 percent), coal (21 percent) and renewables (15 percent) based on 2021 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Graph of North Carolina's Energy Usage

Surprisingly, North Carolina’s typical retail cost per kilowatt of electricity is lower than the national average. The nation’s average is 10.54 cents per kilowatt hour, and NC’s is shy of that at 9.45 cents. Though electricity might cost less for North Carolina residents, they’re using a lot of it. In 2018, North Carolina ranked fourth among the states in the amount of electricity consumed by its residential sector. And that NC spending habit translates to gas, too. They’re guzzling it up. North Carolina’s total annual expenditures for motor gasoline is among the top 10 states.

The state still relies heavily on old ways of energy and fuel production. As a result, their residents and the environment are suffering. Their shift toward varying forms of energy has happened slowly, but alternative energy solutions, like solar, could be what sets North Carolina up for success. Here’s where NC currently stands in terms of solar:

NORTH CAROLINA’S SOLAR PROFILE

  • Solar Installed (MW): 7,228.4
  • National Ranking: 4th (5th in 2020)
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 7.81%
  • Solar Jobs: 6,107
  • Solar Prices have fallen 36% over the last 5 years

North Carolina’s Commitment to Address Climate Change

Governor Roy Cooper signed into effect Executive Order 80 in 2018 to propel North Carolina forward in their journey for a clean energy economy. This led to the Clean Energy Plan by the state and later, House Bill 951, which was signed into law in October of 2021.

Here’s a summary of what HB 951 aims to achieve for North Carolina:

NC BILL 951 OVERVIEW

Energy Solutions for North Carolina
The Carbon Plan

By 2030, reduce CO2 emissions by 70% from 2005 levels; and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Least-Cost Principle

Energy companies will work to find lower cost solutions to diversify their energy mix. This will likely mean natural gas and renewables. However, this does not dictate that they have to concentrate their resources on particular alternatives, such as solar for example.

Retirement of Coal

Coal facilities that are “subcritical” will be retired. However, customers will ultimately be responsible for paying energy companies to recoup expenses from retiring coal facilities.

Multi-Year Rate Planning

Duke Energy will no longer have to justify its rates every year, but instead every three years. They can seek rate increases of up to 4% in the second and third year.

These are just a few high points of the bill. Additional details include items such as a Solar Decommissioning Plan, performance-based metrics and more. Overall, the bill is quite ambitious and sets North Carolina on the right track, while still supporting existing industry in the process. This plan is one of the first of its kind in the Southeast region of the United States. This area of the country has unfortunately always incentivized more investments in traditional, centralized power infrastructure and dirty fossil fuels.

Previous versions of the bill were much more aggressive. However, to get it passed, concessions were made with Duke Energy and other stakeholders brought to the table to provide input. The Utilities Commission will come up with a plan by the end of 2022 to achieve goals and the plan will be reviewed and revised every two years.

THE DUKE’S REIGN

Duke Energy has a monopoly over power plants and energy markets in North Carolina. So much so that they generate 90 percent of the electricity used in North Carolina and those customers are without choice in their provider. They’re reigning king over energy in NC and have ruled as such. North Carolina residents would benefit from more competition and choice in the energy market. We’ll go into all of the great accomplishments of this bill, but one complaint about it is that it does nothing to address Duke Energy’s stronghold on energy. They serve more than 7.4 million electric customers and are the second largest electric utility provider in the nation. It’s also the top carbon emitter among U.S. utilities, according to the Energy and Policy Institute. They have their hands deep in politics and even had a seat at the table during the creation of this legislation.

THE SOLAR SOLUTION

Solar panels on a modern rooftop in North CarolinaPrevious versions of North Carolina Bill 951 laid out methods to achieve carbon neutrality, such as dictating how solar energy should be utilized. This was struck from the bill to give energy companies more freedom in how they make the switch, but Duke still has big plans for solar.

“Duke’s current 15-year plans for both North and South Carolina call for between 8.7 gigawatts and 16.4 gigawatts of new solar and 1 gigawatt to 7.5 gigawatts of new energy storage.”

Citing the falling cost of building solar farms, Duke Energy has continued to build and expand its solar farms. They hope to strike gold by launching solar options for customers through their company, keeping homeowners tied to them for energy.

Like others, they’ve discovered that renewable power is now cheaper and more reliable than new gas, for example. Solar will be one of the cleanest ways for North Carolina to migrate away from harmful fossil fuel energy production ways of the past.

While an energy company’s solar initiatives and state’s clean energy goals are a great place to start, there are more ways to conserve energy.

INDEPENDENT ENERGY

North Carolina residents can switch their home to solar energy to start saving some serious money and doing their part to combat climate change! They can do this free from the control of their energy company by going through an independent solar company in North Carolina for a home solar installation. With a home solar panel system installation, you can lower your monthly energy bill and lower your personal electricity usage.

It’s more affordable and simpler than ever to make the switch right now. North Carolina solar companies, like Sunpro Solar, can work with you and guide you through access to the best local financial incentives, 0% down options available and the 26% federal tax credit available.

If you’re fed up with the utility company’s monopoly and control over your energy, take even more power back into your hands through solar battery storage. Adding a solar battery, such as the Enphase Encharge, to your whole home solar panel system can ensure that you don’t have to rely on the energy grid for your family’s electricity needs. A battery will store the excess energy your panels produce and allow you to use it when you need it most. Whether that’s at night or during blackouts and natural disasters – never have your home go without power.

To learn more about powering your home with solar energy in North Carolina, contact one of our solar specialists.

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