Energy Efficiency Alive and Well in North Carolina

North Carolina scored another victory for clean energy last week when the state’s utilities commission approved a “shared savings” program that will compensate Duke Energy for its investments in energy efficiency programs if they save money for its customers.

The new mechanism, which will be in place from 2014 through the end of 2017, is based on the highly successful shared-savings approach currently in place in many states across the nation to encourage utilities to invest in energy efficiency programs for their customers. With “shared savings,” a utility earns a percentage of the measured energy savings it delivers for its customers. In North Carolina, Duke’s customers will keep close to 90% of the savings -- and Duke Energy will earn the rest. 

And more investment in energy efficiency will benefit all North Carolinians by reducing the need for dirty power generation – and the harm this pollution does to our health.  We expect going forward that energy efficiency can be the first resource tapped to meet energy demands in the state.  More energy efficiency programs also mean more opportunities to create clean jobs – and North Carolina is already a leader there (link) – because we need people to install energy-savings measures such as more insulation, better windows and efficient lighting.  As well as needing folks to manufacture those measures, like Cree Inc. headquartered right here in Durham, NC.

The Commission’s decision in this proceeding is one more positive step for clean energy in North Carolina. Earlier this year, an attempt to repeal the state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Standard was defeated.  Now, this newly approved mechanism, which serves as a successor to the successful Save-A-Watt program expiring at the end of this calendar year, can help continue to build the clean energy momentum in the state.

The Save-A-Watt mechanism, intended to allow Duke to invest and profit in energy efficiency in the same way they do other sources of energy, proved to be quite complicated in its implementation. This new mechanism should simplify the process by which Duke Energy can invest and profit in energy efficiency, clearing the way for Duke to invest in all cost effective energy efficiency going forward-- while achieving real savings for all of it ratepayers.

We also are really pleased with the commission’s decision to have Duke meet with interested intervenors, including NRDC, to discuss the potential development of programs targeted at helping low-income customers, allowing on-bill repayment for energy-efficiency and finding ways to reuse the energy created from industrial processes through “Combined Heat and Power.” These programs will offer valuable energy efficiency savings.

Ultimately, NRDC, together with our partners the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Sierra Club and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, worked hard to make sure we could continue to build on the progress energy efficiency has made in North Carolina.  And we were pleased by the Commission’s decision in this case  which allows Duke Energy Company to make energy efficiency a key part of its business. Going forward, We will continue to work in the state to ensure that all cost effective energy efficiency is tapped.