A bill in the North Carolina Senate aims to initiate a state-managed process leading to development of 2.5GW of offshore wind energy in the next 15 years.
Senate Bill 747, titled Offshore Wind Jobs and Economic Development, calls for private developers to propose commercial wind projects from 2017 to 2027.
The state would analyse costs and benefits to determine the net economic impact of each plan.
If the impact is deemed positive for North Carolina and its citizens, state officials would then require investor-owned utilities to enter long-term contracts to buy offshore wind power.
Electricity co-operatives and municipal utilities would have an option to join.
The bill would also extend an existing manufacturing tax credit until 2020.
“This is a pretty ambitious and good bill that represents a low risk for the state,” Brian O’Hara, president of non-profit advocacy group the North Carolina Offshore Wind Coalition, tells Recharge.
He notes that it would not require the state to use its own funds as risk capital. The bill also would not set a mandate for offshore wind.
North Carolina is the only Southern state with a renewable portfolio standard. It requires investor-owned utilities to meet 12.5% of electricity demand through renewable energy or energy-efficiency measures by 2021.
The utilities are cool on the offshore bill not because they oppose wind power, but because they would lose their monopolies as generators and no longer have a captive base of ratepayers.
Somebody else would be making decisions, and this would shift the way utilities do business, notes O’Hara.
Bill sponsors estimate that developing 2.5GW of offshore wind would create more than 10,000 construction jobs, and 2,000 in long-term operations and maintenance.
It would also save the state millions of dollars a year in coal and natural-gas imports. Coal provides 60% of the power mix, nuclear 33%, with gas and hydro making up the rest.
Governor Bev Perdue, a Democrat, has been a strong supporter of developing the state’s wind resource since taking office in January 2009. North Carolina has the largest offshore wind resource on the East Coast, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
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