An April 4 editorial in The Post and Courier highlighted an ongoing debate in the General Assembly about Duke Energy saving its ratepayers millions through a practice called securitization.
The core of the debate is not whether we should help utility monopolies such as Duke Energy and Dominion Energy save ratepayers money, but how much. Securitization is basically refinancing debt and lowering electric bills for ratepayers. A number of states, including Florida and North Carolina, have given utilities the ability to reduce ratepayer costs for such as expenses as storm cleanups and early retirement of dirty and expensive coal plants by using securitization.
Duke told senators that taking up both storm costs and coal retirement is too complex for this legislative session. Fortunately, I’ve already introduced a bill with bipartisan support, H.5162, that has resolved these complexities, giving our state the option of using securitization to reduce costs for ratepayers for storm cleanup and early retirement of coal plants. Not allowing the securitization of coal retirement costs essentially short-changes ratepayers out of major, long-term savings.
Beyond saving millions for ratepayers, this is a crucial early step in our conversation about a transition to renewable energy. After all, relying on expensive coal is driving greenhouse gas emissions, which, in turn, drive more frequent and extreme hurricanes. The more hurricanes that hit our state, the more storm recovery costs Duke and Dominion will incur and pass along to ratepayers. Instead of putting a Band-Aid on the problem, we should be looking to address the root cause and make it cheaper and easier to transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable and affordable energy sources.
Transitioning to clean energy has the added bonus of creating jobs of the future here in the United States and moving us away from a global fossil fuel market, where the price of oil and gas are determined by events overseas. Unless we become energy independent and generate our own clean energy, we’ll continue to depend on oil from countries like Russia and will continue to see energy bills and gasoline prices take their toll on our wallets.
South Carolina should close outdated, inefficient coal plants and transition to more clean energy technologies such as solar and wind. In the meantime, let’s use the accounting tools at our fingertips to reduce as much of the cost burdens on customers as we can. H.5162 starts the conversation about this clean energy transition and does it in a ratepayer-friendly way.
Let’s not leave millions in ratepayer savings on the table by securitizing only storm cleanup. We can all also support lower electric bills and a clean energy future, and I hope that Duke and my colleagues in the House will join me in this approach.