Duke Energy Supports North Carolina's Renewable Energy Mandate
by Judy Kent
Washington, DC - Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers was forced to state a position on North Carolina's controversial renewable energy mandate May 2nd, after the National Center for Public Policy Research's Justin Danhof asked him at Duke's annual shareholder's meeting if he would agree, in light of the mandate's impact on consumer energy prices, that the mandate should be repealed.
A North Carolina Senate committee voted to repeal those standards yesterday. Duke supported enactment of the standards in 2007, but had been publicly mum on its position on repeal even as three committees in the North Carolina legislature voted on repeal measures over the last two weeks. A primary sponsor of the repeal legislation in the House is a former Duke employee.
North Carolina lawmakers had repeatedly attempted to determine Duke's position on the law during committee hearings to no avail.
Rogers skirted a direct answer to Danhof's question during the shareholder meeting, but was cornered by the press afterward.
According to a Charlotte Business Journal article yesterday by John Downey, Rogers then said, "We still support [the renewables law] because it has the economic provision in it. Personally I support the renewable energy portfolio standard."
The "economic provision" to which Rogers refers is a cap on the amount of expenditures utilities should make to comply with the law. The provision is intended to cap the rate increases consumers receive as a result of the renewables mandate.
"By saying Duke supports the renewables mandate because of the cap, Rogers is conceding the renewables mandate is costing North Carolina consumers unnecessary money," said Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "Rogers' answer is a defensive answer. Notice he doesn't say Duke supports the mandate because of the good it's doing. Duke's CEO says he supports the mandate because there's a cap on the amount of damage it's allowed to do. What kind of reason is that? He's basically saying that he supports a law that's bad because it isn't worse."
"In fact," said Ridenour, "the truth lies in what Mr. Rogers didn't say, which is that government subsidizes renewable energy. Retaining the mandate is good for Duke because of government subsidies paid for by taxpayers who also suffer utility cost increases because of the mandate they are forced to subsidize."
"Mr. Rogers, when finally forced to state a position, may have endorsed keeping the renewable mandate," continued Ridenour, "but footage of Rogers endorsing the mandate could be used in a commercial for repeal."
A study by the John Locke Foundation and Beacon Hill Institute found that North Carolina consumers will pay an extra $2 billion between 2008 and 2021 because of the renewables mandate.
National Center Senior Fellow Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. says Duke Energy and its subsidiary, Progress Energy, the state's two largest utilities, recently sought rate increases for residential customers from the NC Utility Commission of 14.2 and 11.7 percent, respectively.
Bloomberg News estimates the size of the federal government's subsidies for "renewable power and energy efficiency" at $4.5 billion in 2012 alone.
More information about the exchange between Justin Danhof and Jim Rogers can be found here, an audio recording of it can be found here, and Danhof's question, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.
Further information about the renewables mandate can be found here.
Some of the National Center’s other publications relating to renewable energy can be found here, here and here.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a Duke Energy shareholder.