MEDIA RELEASE: Legislation Introduced to Create Statewide Energy Efficiency Program

Legislation Introduced to Create Statewide Energy Efficiency Program
32 Groups Say NC SAVE$ ENERGY is Key to Lowering Energy Bills, Reducing Pollution, and Creating Thousands of Green Jobs

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Al Ripley, NC Justice Center, 919-274-8245; Hope Taylor, 919-401-9600

RALEIGH (April 2, 2009) -- Legislation was introduced today to create the NC SAVES ENERGY program, that backers say will lower energy bills, protect customers'  by eliminating the need for new power plant construction and the resulting costs, create thousands of green jobs, and help protect North Carolina's environment by reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions -- all without impacting the strained state budget. 

With the grassroots backing of over 30 consumer, faith, social justice, senior citizen and environmental nonprofits, legislative sponsors from across the state introduced, House Bill 1050 in the state House of Representatives today.  Lead sponsor for the bill is Rep. Dan Blue of Raleigh. Other prime sponsors include Rep. Joe Tolson of Pinetops, Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville, and Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro.

"This legislation is critical to the future prosperity of North Carolina's economy, environment, and people" said Rep. Dan Blue.  "Today, we are taking action towards saving energy, lowering energy utility costs, and reducing pollution, all while adding thousands of jobs to North Carolina's economy."

The legislation is designed to implement energy efficiency programs that studies and similar initiatives in other states have shown are the best way to control energy costs, reduce energy consumption and pollution, and avoid the construction of new power plants.  The NC SAVE$ ENERGY program will invest in efficiency measures in communities across the state, and will be run by an independent non-profit, drawing in wide experience in energy efficiency and program management. Using an independent administrator, instead of power companies, avoids an inherent conflict of interest between selling and saving energy, according to bill proponents. Supporters of the legislation also point out that energy efficiency programs run by North Carolina's power companies have been woefully inadequate and have failed to deliver meaningful energy conservation and meet the needs of working families.

"NC SAVE$ ENERGY will make it possible for everyone in North Carolina to enjoy the financial, and environmental benefits of using less energy while creating badly needed jobs across the state" said Al Ripley of the NC Justice Center and member of the Alliance.  "This program will enable us to avoid the construction of expensive and polluting power plants and instead improve the value and quality of housing stock in North Carolina."    

First-year funding of $60 to $70 million will come through a small surcharge on utility bills similar to those that now funded in other states.  The average increase in residential bills of under $2 per month will be offset directly by efficiency savings in many homes, and by avoiding dramatic rate hikes predicted to accompany construction of multi-billion dollar coal-fired and nuclear power plants.  Under the bill, low and fixed income residents can be exempted from the surchargeThe program's initial priorities are to ensure affordable electricity for working families and those on fixed incomes, and to create "green" jobs in North Carolina communities.  Other states have similar, cost-effective programs, on which NC SAVE$ ENERGY is based. 

As Jill Rios of North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light, a project of the NC Council of Churches,explained,  "This legislation will prioritize help for the state's most vulnerable residents by reducing their power bills, and by making their homes more comfortable -- which is crucially important during weather extremes."  IP&L, a program of the NC Council of Churches, is helping lead statewide efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.  "There's no better way to slow global warming than through energy efficiency," she added.

NC SAVE$ ENERGY has a website (www.ncsavesenergy.org) to share information about the proposal, as well as helping potential allies to connect with the effort.

Organizations supporting NC SAVE$ ENERGY include:
AARP (North Carolina)
Appalachian Voices
Appalachian Voices Business League
Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
Canary Coalition
Carolinas Clean Air Coalition
Carteret County Crossroads
Clean Water for NC
Conservation Council of North Carolina
Grassroots Energy Alliance
Asheville Green Opportunities
Interfaith Power and Light, a program of the NC Council of Churches
Just Economics
Legal Aid of North Carolina
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of NC
NC Association of Community Development Corporations
NC Fair Share
NC Housing Coalition
NC Justice Center
NC PIRG
NC State AFL-CIO
NC WARN: Waste Awareness & Reduction Network
Nuclear Information & Resource Service -- Southeast Office
Peace & Environmental Justice Team of the Asheville UU Church
Southern Energy Network
Sundance Power Systems
UNC Asheville Student Environmental Center
Western North Carolina Alliance
Western NC Energy
Western NC Physicians for Social Responsibility