Policy makers want to stretch definition of ‘renewables’ to include nuclear & natural gas

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Editor’s note: The Energy Policy Council (EPC) is North Carolina’s central energy policy planning body, working with federal, state, regional and local agencies to develop and coordinate energy policy, and make appropriate reports and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly. The goal is to help North Carolina achieve maximum effective management and use of present and future resources of energy, through policies of energy exploration, efficiency, energy management, and emergency energy program, energy research and development, research and development of renewable and alternative sources of energy, and improvements to the states energy infrastructure and energy economy.

RALEIGH — Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, NC State Dean of the College of Engineering, hosted a Jan. 27 meeting of the North Carolina Energy Policy Council.


The Chairman of the Council is the Lieutenant Governor, Dan Forest. Also present, was Donald van der Vaartt, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality, who suggested to the Council that it is time to include nuclear and natural gas into the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), as part of the “Clean Energy Standard” that includes solar, wind, and biomass.

He stated that clean nuclear is needed to back up intermittent energy provided by solar and wind.

Immediate push back came from several of the council members, such as Paolo Carolla, Executive VP, North America, Beta Renewables, USA, Inc. Their concern, obvious to insiders, is that inclusion of nuclear energy and natural gas into the Renewable Portfolio Standard would mean less money earmarked for solar and wind.

Secretary van der Vaart commented words to the effect, not to worry, state operatives will make the “pie” larger. While it was unclear exactly what he meant to say, this comment implies that more NC tax money will be used if we keep the rates for solar and wind the same and include nuclear and gas.

Dr. van der Vaart recommended the Council endorse implementation of the State Permitting of Solar Farms and a bond requirement for decommissioning. He said local county officials lack sophistication and might be taken advantage of by developers.

Brian O’Hara, Senior Vice President of Strata Solar, one of the 10 largest solar developers in the world was interviewed by WRAL (the station’s parent company, Capitol Broadcasting owns a solar farm). He stated that there is already a ‘Model Solar Ordinance’ that satisfies the concerns of the Secretary and “no one consulted the stakeholders prior to making these recommendations.”

He implied that any discussions going forward would need to include the stakeholders.

Prior to his job with Strata Solar, O’Hara was President and Founder of the Southeastern Wind Coalition. This past spring, Jen Banks, VP of Operations for Southeastern Wind, attended several of the Chowan County Commissioner meetings during the Planning Board subcommittee review of the Chowan Wind Ordinance. She touted the NC Model Wind Ordinance as being “more restrictive” than the Chowan ordinance because, for example, the Model Ordinance puts no restriction on height, and Chowan had a limitation of 600 feet (changed at the request of Apex Clean Energy in 2013 from the original 250 foot limitation) and similar to Mr. O’Hara’s comments Wednesday, she assured the Commissioners that the model ordinance was “well vetted” and consistent with protecting the interest of the public.

Reporters Note:

Many observers see too many “stakeholders” on this Council. These individuals are businessmen who make profit from renewable subsidies. Therefore, they pushed back hard against any law or policy changes that threaten the bottom line. There were seven citizen representatives from Chowan and Perquimans Counties who attended this meeting. They were GiGiBadawi and Steve Owens from Perquimans County: and Patti Kersee, among others, from Chowan County.

The main purpose of this meeting was to approve four policy committee reports for forwarding to the Legislature.

The first was “Energy Efficiency,” which included permitting a left turn on a red light and assurances that all new buildings perform optimally. The second concerned “Emergency Energy” EMF and Geo magnetic Disturbances preparedness — important, but likely beyond the scope, or interest, of the State and utilities involved. The third was “Energy Exploration” presented by John Brodman — basically an appeal to allow for seismic surveys. The fourth was what most in attendance were focused on: “Long Range Energy Generation Planning and Renewables.”

Carl Wilkins gave the presentation and he dragged the Secretary up to help. The Secretary stated that solar had been very successful, especially “now that taxpayers are chipping in.” It was unclear what his intent was with this comment, but he did make it, also recognizing that solar was intermittent and not dispatch able.

He stated that base sources were being lost and had to be replaced. This was where nuclear energy entered the picture. He stated that we cannot replace the base sources with intermittent sources such as solar and wind, but inexplicably referred to nuclear sources as dispatchable backups to the intermittent generators.

John Brodman noted that adding nuclear to the REPS would be correcting an omission in the original legislation. Questions were allowed from the audience. There were a couple of women who worried about nuclear safety. GiGiBadawi spoke about their plight with the “Amazon Wind Farm” and asked if there were any plans to consider the same permitting process for wind farms as Mr. Wilkins had proposed for solar. Mr. Wilkins said that there were no plans to look at the permitting process for wind as none had been issued so far.


Numerous opponents of wind energy have asked the question, over and over about what happens when the wind is not blowing and wind turbines are not operating. Clearly, the inclusion of electric service in the construction of Wind Turbines answers that question. But now the Policy Council is expanding the scope of Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards to include Nuclear Energy. Many people have suggested that Nuclear Energy should be considered in lieu of Wind Energy. And for the Secretary to suggest that in order to include Nuclear, they would need to enlarge the “pie” is troubling. It is perfectly clear that wind and solar Energy can only exist with taxpayer subsidies, so is nuclear to be subsidized by the taxpayers as well? How else are we to take these comments?