Koch brothers tell lawmakers to tell other lawmakers: REPS bad for N.C. | News
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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Koch brothers tell lawmakers to tell other lawmakers: REPS bad for N.C.

Posted by on Wed, Sep 9, 2015 at 5:12 PM

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Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards are responsible for the creation of 23,769 fewer jobs in North Carolina since the Great Recession in 2008. REPS cost the average North Carolina family $3,870 in 2013. Renewable energy sources are significantly more expensive than traditional options that are available. Farmers are being pushed off of their land by solar farms.

These are some of the “facts” that panelists at a forum hosted by the American Energy Alliance, the lobbying arm of the Charles Koch-founded Institute for Energy Research, shared at the General Assembly on Wednesday morning.

The panel was moderated by Tom Pyle, president of the AEA. Rep. Mike Hager, an ALEC-member who really, really wants to freeze REPS at 6 percent, and Sen. Andrew Brock, spoke at the panel in a last-ditch attempt to convince their colleagues on both sides of the aisle that REPS are bad for the state’s economy, especially for the rural areas. (They failed to do this in 2013, and in committee this past spring, though Hager slipped REPS-freeze provisions back into two straggling bills at different times this summer; out-of-state fossil fuel industry interests directly tied to the Kochs are running radio ads across the state to try to advance their anti-renewables agenda before the end of the legislative session.)

Other panelists at this morning’s forum included Dr. Herbert Eckerlin, a North Carolina State University professor who has published newspaper articles this summer decrying renewable energy standards; Dr. Ryan Yonk, the executive director of Strata Policy, a Koch-funded think-tank that pushes university studies that try to discredit REPS policies; and Ronnie Jackson, president of Clinton Truck and Tractor, the largest dealer of farm equipment in eastern North Carolina.

So, how to separate the facts from the fossil fuel-fueled fictions?

The study that blames North Carolina’s job losses during the Great Recession squarely on REPS was actually commissioned by a Koch-funded professor at Utah State University and it is spectacularly flawed.

According to Michael Goggin, Senior Director of Research at the American Wind Energy Association, the study used a “statistical trick to blame the Great Recession on renewable energy.”

“When major errors in the Koch study’s methods are corrected, it once again confirms that state Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS) like those in North Carolina save consumers tens of millions and creates hundreds of jobs,” Goggin wrote on the AWEA’s blog, Into the Wind, in March.

“North Carolina should look to the dozens of peer reviewed studies by independent grid operators, state governments, and academic experts that have found that wind energy benefits consumers’ electricity prices.”

And what about that other claim, that renewable energy sources like wind and solar are significantly more expensive than nuclear, coal, gas and oil, etcetera, and cost average families in North Carolina nearly $4,000 a year, per the Koch study?

Also specious, according to Maggie Clark, a Government Affairs Associate for the NC Sustainable Energy Association, and Allison Eckley, NC SEA’s Communications Manager. The numbers used in the study were not North Carolina specific, but used a national average, including states that have much higher REPS goals than North Carolina’s are.

“It’s a very skewed representation of  how (REPS) can hurt North Carolina families without taking state-specific data into account,” said Clark.

“Using data from the North Carolina Utilities Commission, REPS are actually putting downward pressure on electricity bills. The majority of customers across the state pay less on their monthly bill than they would with just traditional resources powering homes and businesses.”

Clark and Eckerly said North Carolina ratepayers are saving $8 a year on average with the inclusion of REPS, and that, although renewable energy has a high capital cost upfront, there’s no fluctuating fuel costs that hurt customers down the line.

Finally, are all those solar facilities really taking away land from farmers who would otherwise use that land to grow crops? If you’re Ronnie Jackson, then yes indeed. But if you believe in the free market and the reality that there’s plenty of land to go around, why not let landowners lease to whoever’s making the best offer?

According to Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, the communications director of the Sierra Club, REPS have added $4.8 billion to North Carolina’s economy through 2014, since they were required to be included under the bipartisan Senate Bill 3 in 2007. REPS have added 24,000 jobs in the state, and 12,000 growing companies in North Carolina are involved in clean energy production.

“I think a lot of what we saw today were red herrings, blaming economic problems on clean energy, and that’s just not the case,” Chicurel-Bayard told the INDY. “Clean energy has been a boon for North Carolina, it’s been growing businesses, creating investment and creating jobs. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”

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