ElectriCities CEO: Energy bill costly
The potential for the trading of carbon allowances to drive up electric costs is the top issue affecting electric utilities, the chief executive officer for ElectriCities told the Elizabeth City Rotary Club Monday.
ElectriCities CEO Graham Edwards said the Waxman-Markey Bill — the “cap-and-trade” climate change legislationpassed by the U.S. House — could result in a 20 percent to 55 percent increase in electricity costs within 20 years.
“Rates go up with carbon legislation,” Edwards said.
Edwards said the bill passed the House by six votes, with 40 percent of the votes coming from New England and the West Coast, areas that have fewer coal-fired powered plants.
“Congress is dead-set on doing something,” Edwards said.
He said ElectriCities’ position on cap and trade is that Congress should pass some kind of climate change legislation but it should be fair to all energy sectors nationwide. The targets should be achievable and affordable and the time-frame needs to be reasonable, he said.
The market price of allowances under cap and trade is unknown but is expected to be anywhere from $10 per ton of emissions to $100 per ton.
A typical household generates about a ton of emissions per month, Edwards said.
He said he and other energy industry leaders are hopeful that Senate legislation will contain more reasonable targets and not establish a system in which emission allowances are traded like stocks on Wall Street.
The U.S. is responsible for about a fifth of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, Edwards said. About 40 percent of the country’s emissions are from power plants, he added.
“Nuclear power must be part of the solution,” Edwards said. “To me that is the answer for us going forward.”
He said it was crucial that nuclear technology be affordable and not face the kind of spike in costs that came along in the late 1970s. Debt arising from the construction of a nuclear power plant in the 1970s is the single largest expense of members of the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency, a group of 32 cities and towns in eastern North Carolina that includes Elizabeth City, Edenton and Hertford.
Affordability of nuclear technology will drastically affect prices, Edwards said.
In answer to a question from a Rotary member, Edwards said he was optimistic that new nuclear power generation would come on-line within 10 years.
He agreed with a club member who commented that it would be difficult to do anything about global greenhouse gas emissions unless China participates. China needs to “come with us” and be part of the solution, Edwards said.
After the meeting, Edwards told The Daily Advance that ElectriCities is exploring renewable energy with or without congressional action.
“But renewable energy is not the answer for our energy future,” Edwards said. “It’s part of the answer. Renewable sources need to be part of our energy portfolio.”
ElectriCities provides services including training, marketing, power supply management, communications and emergency assistance to cities and towns in North Carolina that belong to the NCEMPA Number One.