The state's 2007 energy law is a work in progress that requires resolving a number of thorny issues, such as whether chipped whole trees qualify as a renewable fuel source.
The state legislature three years ago required power companies to increase their reliance on alternative fuels, clean energy and energy conservation to meet customer demand. North Carolina became the first state in the Southeast to pass a renewable energy portfolio standard.
Under the law, power companies in the state buy electricity and renewable credit from small independent generators that use the sun, wood, animal waste and garbage as fuel.
The N.C. Utilities Commission, which enforces and monitors the state energy law, has already approved a renewable energy facility in Wake County that generates electricity from ethanol that's derived from organic waste.
The commission has also approved a renewable facility that has converted a pair of coal-burning power plants to burn a cleaner blend of coal mixed with wood waste and automobile tires. The portion of electricity that comes form rubber and organic material qualifies as biomass and can be used to toward the renewable energy mandate.
But the subject is so complicated that utilities commission has has to open more than a dozen case dockets to clear up misunderstandings and define disputed terms.