On June 30, 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly ratified compromise legislation that modernizes the state’s solar energy rules but also includes an 18-month moratorium on wind energy projects in the state. The bill now awaits Governor Roy Cooper’s signature or veto.
House Bill 589 was developed through a year-long process of stakeholder negotiations, including representatives from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (“NCSEA”). Of note, when the bill was introduced in the Senate after passing in the House, the wind moratorium was added to the legislation to provide for a comprehensive study on wind energy development in the state, citing concerns over the impacts of the siting of wind energy facilities on the aviation operations of the state’s military installations.
The general focus of the legislation is to overhaul the state’s rules for solar energy development, including the implementation of a competitive bidding process between solar energy developers and the state’s regulated public utilities. The bill also establishes a solar rebate program for utility customers that install or lease solar energy units on their property, allowing for third-party leasing arrangements. Other provisions reform the state’s interpretation of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act in an effort to more closely align with current federal regulations.
The NCSEA, which helped develop House Bill 589, at first supported the legislation. However, after the wind moratorium was added, the NCSEA withdrew its support, concerned over the bill’s impacts on wind energy development in the state.
Governor Roy Cooper also supported House Bill 589 initially, but his opinion on the compromise legislation that now includes the 18-month wind moratorium is unclear. Even if Governor Cooper ultimately decides to veto the legislation, the General Assembly may override the veto, as the bill had bipartisan support in both chambers.
The ratified legislation is available here.