A group of state lawmakers from North and South Carolina want to deregulate the states' electricity markets by allowing competition for power production. At a press conference Thursday in Charlotte, the lawmakers said they want the two states to study the issue together and suggest reforms.
State Rep. Larry Strickland (R-Johnston County), said he wants North Carolina to convert the current regulated monopoly to a competitive system. A bill he introduced this session would allow for creation of a regional entity that would own power transmission lines in the Carolinas, and require the state to study the benefits of the idea.
He said the goal would be a system that lowers costs and gives customers more choices, or, as he put it, "transition from a vertical, integrated monopoly structure to a market-based system that puts the interests of utility customers at the center of the discussion."
In a press conference at the Mint Museum Uptown, Strickland said 35 other states have adopted electricity market structures. He believes North and South Carolina, and maybe other neighbors, can create a new energy marketplace that will also help shift to cleaner energy sources and a more reliable energy grid.
South Carolina Sen. Tom Davis, a Republican from Beaufort County, said the states' current early-20th century systems are outdated. He filed a bill this week to study electricity market reform after studying the business following the cancellation of the V.C. Summer nuclear plant expansion project in Fairfield County, S.C. That left ratepayers on the hook for millions of dollars in expenses for a plant that will never generate electricity.
"In politics, it's very hard to change the status quo," Davis said. "Whenever there's a crisis or catastrophe, there's a window of opportunity, like Fairfield County."
He also said deregulated markets could spur faster adoption of renewable energy, like wind or solar power, and that could mean a faster response to the threat of climate change.