New bill looks to address Christmas Eve blackouts that left 500,000 without power

A bill introduced Tuesday aims to address energy cost and resiliency in North Carolina.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 5:44 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A bill introduced Tuesday aims to address energy cost and resiliency in North Carolina.

The Storm Resiliency Study Act, introduced into the North Carolina House of Representatives, would fund a study into reforms to the state’s energy market that could lower energy costs and improve reliability during severe weather.

It comes after 500,000 North Carolina residents were without power on Christmas Eve because of rolling blackouts. Extreme cold caused an increase in demand for energy and overwhelmed the state’s power grid, which caused Duke Energy to conduct rolling blackouts to avoid more issues.

“Obviously, our current system is not reliable enough,” Rep. Larry Strickland, who sponsors the bill, said in a statement. “It’s simply unacceptable in modern North Carolina that cold weather should leave our people, many of them sick or elderly, alone in the frigid dark. That’s not just embarrassing, it seriously threatened people’s lives.”

A similar study was conducted in South Carolina and showed some reforms could save ratepayers $362 million annually.

Cassie Gavin, the policy director of the NC Sustainable Energy Association, said the bill could be a first step in improving energy resilience during severe weather and making energy costs more affordable for North Carolinians.

“There’s no reason we should be suffering that, and maybe taking a look at reliability and other options would be a good idea for North Carolina at this time,” Gavin said. “There are potential savings and there’s a potential reliability improvement.”

In a statement to WECT News, a spokesperson for Duke Energy said the company believes reforms like a regional transmission organization (RTO) are not right for North Carolina. An RTO controls and monitors an electrical system.

“Duke Energy is committed to delivering reliable service to every community we serve at the lowest possible cost, while improving our operations every day,” the statement said. “An RTO is not a good fit for North Carolina. We are focused instead on implementing the goals set forth by state leaders in H951 and delivering a cleaner, more resilient energy future for all of our customers.”