1) What is the Energy Freedom Act (EFA), and why was it instituted?
The Energy Freedom Act introduces limited market competition for North Carolina’s electricity customers, who are currently required to purchase power from the monopoly utility that serves their community. House Bill 245 changes this dynamic, placing the power of choice in the consumers’ hands by legalizing a practice commonly known as “third party sales” of electricity.
The legislation would, for the first time, allow North Carolina property owners [and colleges] to purchase electricity directly from a renewable energy company of their choosing. The company would own, operate and maintain a power system installed on the property owner’s roof or property.
2) How will third party companies help colleges make their campuses more energy efficient?
Much like a car or a home, the upfront cost of purchasing a new renewable energy system can be a barrier to investment. Third-party sales of electricity arrangements make it easier and more affordable for consumers to invest in renewable energy by translating that upfront cost into manageable monthly payments for the electricity, often below utility rates.
In addition to eliminating the upfront cost and the hassle of maintenance, third-party sales agreements also minimize risk to the consumer; because the system owner is responsible for system performance, it only receives payments for power that is delivered.
3) How would the EFA benefit North Carolina-based colleges?
Although North Carolina is currently ranked second in the nation for new installed solar capacity, current law prevents our [17-campus] UNC System from enjoying the benefits of North Carolina-grown solar power. (Meanwhile, one of North Carolina’s largest solar farms is helping two Washington, D.C.-area universities – George Washington University and American University– meet over half their electricity needs, while lowering their energy costs).
For our state-owned universities, this bill would finally mean reaping the cost-saving rewards of generating on-site renewable energy.