Utility companies would be required to provide a certain amount of retail electricity from renewable energy and power-saving measures under a bill that cleared its first legislative hurdle.The measure won support from the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee chaired by its sponsor, Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin. It needs approval from the Senate Finance Committee before it will face a full chamber vote.
The bill orders North Carolina public utilities to provide 12.5 percent of their retail power from renewables and efficiency by the year 2021. Electric co-ops and municipal power companies would have a 10 percent standard.
Utility companies praised the measure crafted during more than a dozen stakeholder meetings as a way to guarantee that they will be able to meet growing customer demand while still turning to "greener" power sources.
"We believe this bill is so good because it is a comprehensive policy," said Cari Boyce, spokeswoman for Progress Energy.
But environmental groups were unhappy that the bill retained language that would allow the power companies to recover the cost of building coal and nuclear power plants by charging customers before those plants come on line.
The House may prove less friendly to that section, and opponents will push for its removal when the measure gets to that chamber, said Elizabeth Ouzts, director of Environment North Carolina.