Companies, Advocacy Groups Call for North Carolina Market Reform Study

Businesses Urge Legislature and Governor to Evaluate Market Reform Options that Would Increase Grid Reliability and Reduce Costs

Nine companies and five business and consumer advocacy groups today called for North Carolina lawmakers to establish and fund a state-led committee to study wholesale market competition options, to improve grid reliability and generate cost savings for the benefit of all North Carolina ratepayers.

In a letter sent today to members of the North Carolina General Assembly and Governor Roy Cooper, the companies and groups urged state lawmakers to approve House Bill 503, a bipartisan proposal sponsored by Reps. Larry Strickland, Kyle Hall, and John Torbett. The bill would authorize and fund the creation of a legislative study committee to evaluate competitive wholesale market options to ensure a well-designed and well-implemented market for North Carolina ratepayers.

“As businesses with major operations, employees, and investments in communities across the state, reliable and affordable electricity is key to the vitality of our companies,” the letter notes. “State regulated monopoly utilities are not offering optimally designed and scalable clean energy programs. Recent rolling blackouts during Winter Storm Elliott highlight the urgent need for sufficient reliable and affordable electricity in North Carolina… We urge you to take action to address market barriers to reliable, affordable, and resilient electricity.”

Nine companies signed the letter: Nestlé, REI, New Belgium Brewing, Unilever, Marriott, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Carolina Solar Energy, Yarotek, and SJF Ventures. Five advocacy organizations also joined as signers: the Clean Energy Buyers Association (CEBA), Ceres, E2, Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, and the Carolina Utility Customers Association.

“Expanding electricity market options in North Carolina would help drive innovation and cost savings for all energy customers and improve grid reliability and resilience,” said Reese Rogers, CEBA’s Southeastern market and policy innovation manager. “House Bill 503 would open a path for North Carolina to move toward greater options for customer choice and grid reliability.”

“Businesses want better access to reliable, affordable, clean energy, and the best way to unlock these resources at scale is through new wholesale market competition,” said Alli Gold Roberts, Ceres’ senior director of state policy. “House Bill 503 provides a path toward opening the market and delivering significant utility bill savings and economic development across North Carolina. Ceres and the businesses and investors we work with urge lawmakers to pass this bill soon.”

“With the energy landscape shifting so rapidly, we owe it to North Carolina businesses and households to explore electricity market reforms that could help the state deliver more reliable and more affordable energy to customers,” said Zach Amittay, E2’s Southeast advocate. “HB 503 is a commonsense first step to do just that.”

A growing body of market research on the Southeast indicates that unlocking wholesale market competition in North Carolina could produce significant cost savings, drive innovation and economic development, and improve grid reliability and resilience. Organized wholesale markets, regional transmission organizations (RTOs) or independent system operators (ISOs), currently serve over 70% of all U.S. customers.

A 2020 report by Energy Innovation found that a Southeastern RTO could create $384 billion in regional economic savings, create 285,000 clean energy jobs, and reduce emissions 37% by 2040. As the letter notes, opening the energy market in North Carolina to more competition translates to more options to meet customer preferences and, in turn, supports economic development prospects in the state.

Regional coordination on an electricity market and transmission planning would help the Carolinas realize efficiencies of exchange and economies of scale that come from expanded market access. Brattle Group analysts this spring told the South Carolina General Assembly’s Electricity Market Reform Measures Committee that South Carolina utility customers could save $285 million to $362 million a year if the Carolinas together joined an RTO. A North Carolina market study would evaluate the degree of savings for North Carolina customers.