Barely three years have passed since the state overhauled its energy policy to require electric utilities to meet energy demand through renewable resources and energy efficiency programs.
Now a legislative proposal introduced Wednesday would scrap the 2007 energy law, known as Senate Bill 3, or SB3. Republican state Rep. George Cleveland's bill calls for the immediate repeal of Senate Bill 3, which requires power companies to meet 12.5 percent of customer electricity demand through renewables and conservation by 2021.
Cleveland, a retired U.S. Marine who represents Onslow County, could not be reached for comment this week.
But the idea originates from the conservative John Locke Foundation. The Raleigh nonprofit says SB3 artificially drives up electricity prices and panders to environmental extremists.
"SB3 primarily serves as a way to mandate a guaranteed market for renewable energy providers, because otherwise people would avoid their cost-prohibitive and unreliable electricity," the organization says on its web site.
Senate Bill 3 took months of negotiations between lawmakers, electric utilities, environmentalists, renewable industries and other constituencies, and is regarded by supporters as a major policy achievement.
Power companies, initially skeptical of alternative energy, are now committed to SB3.
"We do not support [repealing] it," said Progress Energy spokesman Mike Hughes. "We've made some investments to be in compliance with SB3 and these investments are long-term."
Specifically, Progress has signed a number of 20-year contracts to buy the power output from solar energy farms. Progress has also developed a program of financial incentives for customers who buy energy-efficient appliances.
Charlotte-based Duke Energy likewise opposes repealing SB3.
"It has done a lot of good things for the state," said Duke spokesman Jason Walls. "This legislation has really helped create a market for solar energy in the state."
The law is also supported by N.C. Energy Policy Council, a panel that advises Gov. Bev Perdue and lawmakers on energy issues.
"With wise and determined leadership, North Carolina’s green energy economy ambitions will eclipse sloganeering to create jobs, build stronger communities and lead the economic recovery," the council said in a recently issued report.
The John Locke Foundation's concerns about the bill include provisions in SB3 that allow Progress, Duke, municipal power agencies and rural electric cooperatives to meet SB3 mandates by paying premiums to out-of-state wind farms without having to buy the electricity.
The foundation notes that wind energy in North Carolina is a non-starter because of strong opposition to building 400-foot tall turbines along the coast and in the mountains.
The group also says that solar and wind energy is not only costly but also unreliable, providing electricity only when it's windy and sunny.
The cost of the renewable and efficiency programs is passed on to utility customers, as is the case for new nuclear plant development and all utility strategies to meet customer energy demand.