By John Downey
N.C. Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland) made good Monday on a recent promise to submit a bill allowing renewable-energy developers to sell power directly to customers in North Carolina, bypassing the state’s utilities.
And the bill is even broader than he proposed when he spoke of it in February.
While he was still drafting the “Energy Freedom Act,” Szoka said he expected the legislation would be limited to sales to government offices, not-for profit organizations and military bases. His thinking was that it would save taxpayers and nonprofits money and could be a step toward more general “third-party sales” from renewable-energy project owners to customers.
Current law requires the sale of any power from any independent power producer be made to the local utility for distribution and resale.
The only requirements are that the renewable project be built on the property of the power-purchasing customer and cannot produce more than 125 percent of the power that the customer would use.
“Free enterprise, in the form of market competition, is the cornerstone of the success of the United States and our economy,” Szoka says in a prepared statement about the legislation. “Allowing North Carolinians to generate electricity on private property and allowing consumers flexible financing options, has immediate and long-term benefits that extend beyond the parties involved in third-party agreements.”
He calls legalizing such sales “an investment in the health of our state’s long-term economic and energy future.”
The bill, if adopted, would be a boon for the solar industry in the state.