It looks like the utility companies are having a banner year as far as manipulating Public policy. We're about to strip the budget from the State Energy Office, so instead of funding research into the things we really need like Solar, Wind and other renewables, they're going to be wandering around changing light bulbs:
The Senate's proposed budget contains no state money this year for the SEO's grant work. Many of those grants go to three university energy programs—N.C. Solar Center in Raleigh, Appalachian State and N.C. A&T.
Shirley argues that without state funds, there would be no comprehensive resource for energy policymakers or citizens.
"The greatest concern [about the proposal] is the fragmentation of services and lack of leadership," Shirley says.
In addition to the loss of focus on research the shrinking of this important office will cause, they will also be less able to monitor the success of the energy efficiency promises of the utilities.
Is this merely an artifact of budget constraints, or is there something more sinister at work here?
However, while lawmakers make policy, the utilities have enormous influence over it, hiring cavalcades of lobbyists and doling out political contributions. Two senate Democrats behind the SEO provision (they didn't return calls or emails seeking comment), John Kerr and David Hoyle, received thousands of dollars from utilities in the 2006 election cycle. According to state campaign finance records, Hoyle received $3,500 from Duke Energy executives, including $2,000 from CEO Jim Rogers, and $8,000 from Progress. Kerr raked in $3,000 from Duke and another $1,000 from Progress.
"My suspicion is the utilities view the SEO as somewhat of a threat," says Tim Toben, the force behind Greenbridge, a green housing development in Chapel Hill. "In the state we are moving pretty quickly from nuclear and coal to a new and healthier clean energy scheme. The utilities aren't comfortable with the pace of awareness moving through North Carolina."
And so, another progressive and forward-looking entity is marginalized and defunded, and we are left to rely more and more on the judgment of the utility companies.
Sounds like some e-mails need to be sent...