Energy bill could impact Lake Lure

Apr. 14, 2013 @ 05:21 AM

A bill moving through the North Carolina House of Representatives may have a lasting impact on the Town of Lake Lure.

The bill — which cuts a mandate requiring state energy companies from selling a percentage of its energy from renewable sources — was sponsored by Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford who said the current standards use state money to subsidize renewable energy producers that are already getting federal dollars to assist with their operations.

However, Chris Braund, Lake Lure town manager said the town would be impacted negatively if the bill passes, because the dam at Lake Lure produces renewable energy that is sold back to Duke Energy under the current law.

Braund wrote a letter to Hager explaining what the reselling of energy produced from the dam means to the town.

"I had just been reading the articles in the paper about the bill," Braund said. "I was pretty sure that he didn't realize that Lake Lure was on the sustainable renewable generator side of the equation."

He said the hydroelectric production from the dam has varied over the years with the town making as little as $43,000 in 2008 to as much as $425,000 in 2010. That money is a combination of the raw kilowatt-hours generated and the sale of the renewable energy credits Lake Lure gets from generating the energy.

"It is not the bulk of what we make but it is a nice additive to allow us to do things at the plant," Braund said. "We use the funds strictly to work on the dam or dredging on the west side of the lake. Every little bit helps because our infrastructure is quite old."

Hager said that the state has spent $250 million in excess costs due to energy which includes $25 million for cities and counties.

Braund said in his letter that because Duke Energy has established more of its own renewable energy, the rate of the credits Lake Lure sells to Duke has decreased from $6.60 per MwH to the current price of $2,50 per MwH.

The original legislation, passed in 2007, also allows for 25 percent of the renewable energy purchased for resale to come from outside the State of North Carolina. That is another measure that Hager said makes the current law flawed. Braund agrees.

"It would be great if, in his bill, he could alter the programs to allow the sale and purchase of those credits inside the state only," Braund said.

But, he said he believes the program established in the 2007 law is working because of competition and more renewable energy producers in North Carolina.

"You are seeing more entrepreneurs in the solar industry and it is making those energy credits cheaper because there is more to get and that is great," Braund said.

The intent of the 2007 law is to get companies like Duke Energy to generate their own renewable energy thus cutting the need for purchasing that power from outside sources, Braund said.

"If the program works the way it is supposed to, Duke would come back and say they are generating enough renewable energy themselves and no longer need to purchase that from other sources," Braund said. "That is where public policy would work but I don't know if we are there yet."

The bill is circulating through four different House committees because, according to Hager, House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, "wants to vet this bill and make sure that we aren't hurting the economy of the state."