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How a Bold New Energy Plan is Helping to Power North Carolina’s Success

| Energy

Joe Brannan is the executive vice president and chief executive officer of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives and a member of the NC Chamber’s Executive Committee. He brings nearly three decades of experience in the utility sector and a mindset that innovation drives progress to lead the 26 member-owned, not-for-profit utilities that make up North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.

At the organization I lead, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, we’re committed to building a Brighter Future for people and communities in a quickly evolving energy landscape. Our 26 locally owned energy cooperatives specialize in delivering affordable, reliable power to our members in 93 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. In this mission, we are grateful to be part of a network of energy stakeholders who share similar values here in our state.

The strength and diversity of this statewide network was evident in force this past Tuesday at the NC Chamber’s 2022 Energy Summit, where experts and thought leaders representing a wide swath of industry perspectives gathered to share ideas and solutions to keep our state moving toward a strong energy future.

A Bold New Energy Plan for North Carolina

The energy sector is changing, and not incrementally. It is going through a major evolution, driven by unparalleled leaps in innovation and technology. This year’s Energy Summit – made possible by presenting sponsor Pike Corporation and a host of other supporters, including North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives – explored recent shifts in federal and state energy policy that will significantly impact how North Carolina continues to embrace and experience this energy transition.

House Bill 951 (Energy Solutions for North Carolina), a comprehensive energy bill passed in 2021 with bipartisan support from leaders at the NC General Assembly, is perhaps the most important piece of energy policy secured by lawmakers in our state since passage of our renewable energy standard in 2007. Simply put, House Bill 951 lays the foundation for a bold new state energy plan that considers current and emerging trends within the wider energy sector and looks ahead to prepare for the next wave of change on the horizon.

North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives were proud to partner with the NC Chamber and other organizations to shape and support this forward-thinking legislation ahead of its bipartisan passage. At the heart of our advocacy was a commitment to energy policy that empowers North Carolina to pursue sustainability goals while protecting reliable, affordable, and accessible energy supplies – priorities that align with the cooperatives’ Brighter Future vision for people and communities.

A Plan Backed by Flexibility and Accountability

The strategy laid out by House Bill 951 rests on three core maxims for determining the next phase of North Carolina’s energy transition:

  1. The state’s utility industry will – through a combination of improved technology and the integration of cleaner and more diverse energy resources – reduce carbon emissions by at least 70 percent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
  2. Steps implemented to achieve this must pursue least-cost pathways at a measured pace.
  3. Plans must maintain or strengthen grid reliability.

House Bill 951 provides a regulatory framework that supports these maxims with an appropriate mix of flexibility – all options for new generation are on the table to ensure cost-efficiency and grid reliability – and accountability – oversight functions impacting utility regulation and new energy generation stay in the capable hands of the NC Utilities Commission to continue balancing the needs of consumers and our statewide community throughout the energy transition.

A Plan to Power our Economy and our Resilience

The bill’s carbon reduction targets will drive further innovation across the state’s energy sector, which will grow jobs, advance new technologies, and attract more high-impact investments and top talent from beyond our state.

House Bill 951 also ensures continued access to energy resources like natural gas and zero-emissions nuclear power, so we can reliably meet the 24/7 needs of customers while pursuing sustainability targets.

In addition to supporting reliability, assuring our continued access to nuclear energy and the strategic use of natural gas will help control energy costs and support rate stability – especially important for manufacturers and other industrial ratepayers – as we steadily grow our capacity to run our state on more renewable sources of energy.

A Plan that North Carolina Can Build On

The energy sector is not finished evolving – not by a long shot. New technologies and innovations will keep fueling change throughout every layer of our electric system, shaping new approaches to generating, transmitting, distributing, and consuming the energy that powers our lives.

House Bill 951 sets a sturdy foundation for the transition that is underway. I thank legislators and policymakers from both parties, along with aligned advocates, for working hard to secure its passage last session. As the energy paradigm continues to shift, private- and public-sector leaders will need to keep working hard to ensure energy remains affordable and reliable for residential, commercial, and industrial electricity consumers, while also achieving sustainability goals.

With this legislation, North Carolina is poised to lead the nation with an energy policy that appropriately balances the need to pursue and achieve sustainability goals while also upholding the reliability and affordability of electricity for people and communities. I believe we have good reason to feel optimistic about the course we’ve set for a brighter future here in North Carolina.