I’m sure there’s some people that would agree… the price we pay for electricity in NC is cheap. So cheap that we often use it wastefully and without thought. So cheap that it makes clean energy technologies, such as solar, seem expensive. It is also artificially cheap. The billions of dollars of costs that are unaccounted for are written off by the Utilities as “externalities.” Society pays through health care, rising food costs, and damage to our life-sustaining systems. Future generations will bear these costs long into the future.
Given the above, it would seem that I would be advocating higher utility rates, and to be truthful, there is a part of me that thinks that consumer use won’t change until the impact on their pocketbooks is significant. 14% is significant. And that is what Progress Energy has requested for residential rates last fall, and folks all over the state have been protesting at Public Hearings with the NC Utilities Commission. (Apparently, this is having an impact on the process as it was reported in the News Observer that Progress and the state’s Public Staff agency agreed to slash the rate increase request by about half. The final decision is up to the N.C. Utilities Commission, but Public Staff settlements carry considerable weight with the commission.)
People in Western North Carolina will have the opportunity to input their comments to the NCUC on Tuesday, March 5 at 7:00 pm. I’ll be joining concerned citizens at the Buncombe County Courthouse to speak against this rate change, because it will be a chance to stand up to a system that is costing us too much- not necessarily in pennies per watt, but in rights and values that are beyond dollars. I’m showing up to call for accountability from our leaders to make decisions that are made with regard to protecting our clean air and water resources, and optimizing the health and economic well- being of the populace, rather than on high profitability for shareholders.
Duke and Progress Energy have put a proposed twenty year Integrated Resource Plan in front of the Utilities Commission that calls for only 2.2% of its generating capacity in 2032 to come from wind and solar, while continuing its dependency on fossil fuels and nuclear. (Despite solar’s success in meeting mandated clean energy set-asides in the adopted Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard ( REPS) much more quickly and cost-effectively than thought possible.)
In my opinion, this is unacceptable from every angle and shows no evidence of innovation and proactive thinking that I expect from leaders. Politically, it has been unbelievable to follow the development of proposed Senate Bill 10, which would allow the elimination and reappointment of NC’s Boards and Commissions, including the Utilities Commissions. (Many of the replacements have affiliations with Duke Energy.)
There is a lot at stake here, and it is critical for citizenry to become educated and engaged. We can allow the Utilities to charge us more and more for dirty energy, or we can work to empower ourselves and the future with viable solutions such as solar.