This news outlet has previously dogged out Charlotte, North Carolina-based utility Duke Energy for its repeated attempts to pass along the (considerable) costs of its Tarheel State infrastructure expansions to South Carolina ratepayers.
I have also dogged out Duke over the underlying reason those investments are so damn costly … the corporation’s continued failure to responsibly manage its energy mix.
Duke has found itself (rightfully) in the crosshairs of a sustained onslaught from clean energy supporters – many of whom are backed financially by tech giant Google. Yet while South Carolina is a key battleground in this broader energy war, all sides of the debate appear to be centered in North Carolina – as evidenced by the composition of a new group which purportedly seeks to influence policy in both states.
The group is called the Carolinas Clean Energy Business Association (CCEBA), and it bills itself as “the Carolinas’ voice for the clean energy industry.”
That moniker is only half-accurate, as it turns out. The group – which according to our sources recently received a high six-figure investment at Google’s behest – has no South Carolina members on its five-person executive committee. That’s right: None. It also has just one South Carolina member on its 17-person board of directors.
By contrast, North Carolina has four representatives on CCEBA’s five-person executive committee and eleven of seventeen board members. The rest – well, with the exception of the one Palmetto State representative – are from other states.
Again … how is this a “Carolinas” group?
Indeed, the composition of this Google front is eerily reminiscent of when Duke sought to subject the much-maligned South Carolina Public Service Commission (SCPSC) to the whims of the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC).
In both cases … South Carolina is literally an afterthought.
Even with Duke providing the perfect foil, Google’s efforts to reshape the energy landscape in the “Carolinas” have yet to move the needle. South Carolina has assented only to “study” the formation of a more market-driven energy delivery model – while North Carolina has refused to even look at such a structure.
Act 187 of 2020 created a panel to “recommend the adoption of various electricity market reform measures affecting the provision of electric service in South Carolina” and to explore the “potential public benefits associated with these measures.” The study underwhelmed, though – and Google made zero progress this legislative session. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s latest proposal – House Bill 503 – was dead on arrival in the Duke-dominated N.C. General Assembly.
The eventual objective of these bills is the creation of a new regional transmission organization (RTO) – or the folding of the Carolinas utility marketplace into an existing RTO. These entities sprang up across the country in the aftermath of the partial deregulation of the utility industry by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the mid-1990s. They now provide power to two-thirds of the nation’s population.
Should South Carolina adopt this model? I don’t know … but it seems both sides of this debate are arguing over our heads, eager to decide the matter in Raleigh, not Columbia.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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