RALEIGH — A bipartisan energy bill backed by Gov. Roy Cooper that targets scaling back greenhouse gas emissions and gives Duke Energy the option to seek rate increases advanced in the North Carolina legislature on Tuesday.
The measure, unveiled late last week, cleared two Senate committees and is likely to soon be on the Senate floor. A House vote is also needed. With backing from members of both parties, Duke Energy and several key business groups, the legislation should be on the Democratic governor’s desk soon.
The bill gives the North Carolina Utilities Commission until the end of next year to create a plan to reduce the carbon dioxide output from energy producers to 70% from 2005 levels by 2030, and achieve zero-net CO2 emissions by 2050. They are the goals developed in Cooper’s own Clean Energy Plan, which he says is needed to counter climate change and take advantage of the declining expense of renewable energy.
“This legislation requires the state to get on a clean energy path, at the least cost,” Cooper told reporters before Tuesday’s committee meetings. “It’s a bold step and sometimes that creates uncertainty, but it’s a critical step that we have to take in North Carolina.”
An earlier version of the bill approved in July by the House but panned by Cooper and others would have told Duke Energy exactly which coal-fired power plants needed to be shuttered and suggested at times which replacement fuels were needed. The final version is much less prescriptive, keeping the decision-making with the commission. But the bill says the regulatory panel must find the “least cost path” forward and ensure reliable and adequate electricity supplies to meet the carbon dioxide reductions.