Navigant Research Blog

North Carolina’s RPS Debate Continues

Lauren Callaway — June 22, 2015

In April, the Public Utilities Committee of the North Carolina General Assembly voted against the passing of House Bill 681, which would effectively cut the state’s 2021 renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in more than half, from 12.5% of the total load to 6% (its 2015 requirement).  Just a month later, another attack on the RPS came in the form of House Bill 332, which proposed amendments to North Carolina’s energy policy, including the same lowering of the state’s RPS to a fixed 6% after 2015.  Additionally, the bill seeks to lower the cap on qualifying generation facilities to receive a standard contract for power supplied from 100 kW to 5 MW, something that would kill the financing for many planned and existing projects.

In a state that is characterized by polarized politics and shifting party support, North Carolina’s RPS has been fiercely opposed and defended (previously in 2013 and likely again in the future).  The majority of opposition has focused on the cost implications of incorporating more renewable resources into the supply mix and how these high costs would be passed directly on to consumers in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. Note that to date, North Carolina maintains some of the lowest electric rates in the country for all of these sectors.

Considering the Implications

In the most recent round of this debate, several industry stakeholders have emerged to publicly oppose changes that would lower the state’s planned RPS.  These companies, including Google, Apple, and Facebook, have developed facilities in North Carolina specifically because that state’s support of renewables has aligned with corporate sustainability goals and initiatives. The protest also raised concerns that limiting the state RPS would actively stall technology innovation that could reduce the cost of renewables and eventually even lower the total cost of energy.

Located near Charlotte, North Carolina, the Coalition of the Willing project is currently underway at Duke Energy.  The project is actively seeking means of optimizing the electric delivery system, including its ability to manage and deliver renewable resources.  It has brought together more than 30 of the most powerful and innovative companies in the electric supply and delivery industry to develop common standards for interoperability across the organization and physical grid, something that has traditionally prohibited the optimized use of both centralized and distributed renewable resources.

Duke’s work has been immensely influential to utilities across the country on how to modernize grids to allow for increased renewable generation of both small and medium capacities and at both centralized and distributed levels.  Any policy changes that limits innovation in this area could be much further reaching than the state lines.

For more information on new technologies that support renewables and distributed energy resources integration, please see Navigant’s recent reports, Grid Edge Intelligence for DER Integration and The Energy Cloud.

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