By John Downey
Nine Mecklenburg Democrats in the N.C. General Assembly are calling on state regulators to hold additional hearings, including one with expert testimony, on the long-range plans for North Carolina’s three largest electric utilities.
The seven House members and two senators want the N.C. Utilities Commission to hold a hearing in Charlotte allowing the public to comment on the 15-year-old plans of Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress and Dominion Energy North Carolina for new plant construction and for building out new smart grid technology.
“Further, we would ask that … (an) official evidentiary hearing on the three (Integrated Resource Plans) be held,” the letter sent to the commission last week says. “Like ratepayer’s input, expert testimony relative to planned capacity mix and resource options is critical.”
The commission has held one hearing already on Feb. 4 in Raleigh, allowing for public comment on the plans. But the legislators say that a second meeting should be held in western North Carolina. The letter is signed by Reps. John Autry, Kelly Alexander, Mary Belk, Christy Clark, Wesley Harris, Carolyn Loganand Nasif Majeed as well as Sens. Jeff Jackson and Natasha Marcus.
“We may not all agree on everything, but we can agree on the necessity to move our reliance to clean, renewable energy,” the legislators say. “And to that end a thorough review of both our state’s utility plans and costs is needed.”
The long-range plans are meant as a guide for future construction expected by the state’s utilities. Those plans set out broad outlines for utility development but do not involve approval of any specific construction project or infrastructure upgrades. They do, however, plot the course on issues such as the use of renewables and, this year in particular, focus on the future of a more interactive “smart grid.”
The commission has yet to act on a formal request from watchdog group NC WARN, filed in November, for an evidentiary hearing at which it can present expert testimony on the need to eliminate fossil fuels. Duke Carolinas and Duke Progress formally oppose the request.