RALEIGH (October 1, 2021) – A new draft of House Bill 951, “Energy Solutions for North Carolina,” fails to provide meaningful programs to protect those with low incomes from increased electricity bills. While there are many important dynamics concerning environmental and renewable energy issues in North Carolina, the North Carolina Justice Center opposes this legislation due to the harmful anticipated cost impacts it will have on people with low incomes.

HB 951 will significantly increase electricity bills for all residential ratepayers, by some estimates up to 50 percent in three years. Households spending $2,400 a year on electricity, for example, would see the cost jump to $3,600 annually.

People with low incomes already cannot afford energy bills at today’s rates. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, 13.6 percent or 1,386,122 North Carolinians were living in poverty.[1] For a family of four in 2019, that is an annual income of less than $25,750. Such an increase in utility bills would make it even more difficult for these families to be able to pay for basic needs like electricity.

In 2019, in one large utilities territory alone, 225,000 people had their utility service disconnected for non-payment.

In addition, the energy burden on North Carolina households during that same year—that is, the percent of income used to pay for energy—left 1,397,409 households paying 6 percent or more of their income for energy.[2] Families living at between 50 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level spent 16 percent of their income on energy costs.[3] Increasing the energy burden even further would be devastating for those with low incomes.

Proponents of the legislation claim that a loan program (sometimes called On Tariff Financing) in the bill will help those with low incomes, however, programs like these are often not available to homeowners and renters with low incomes and will not adequately meet the needs of people with very low incomes.

This legislation will hurt millions of people in North Carolina who are already spending a disproportionate amount of their incomes to meet basic needs. We ask legislators to vote no on HB 951.

[1] Poverty 2018 and 2019 American Community Survey Briefs ACSBR/20-04
[2] Fisher, Sheehan & Colton; Public Finance and general Economics; Belmont, MS April 2020
[3] Ibid