One of the most troubling aspects of the Senate budget is the proposed elimination of the State Energy Office. Federal money from oil company overcharges, that has provided most of the funding for the last 20 years, has run out and it is now up to state appropriations to continue its good work. The office has an annual budget of $7.3 million, which funds 16 positions and provides grant funding for programs such as the Solar Center at NCSU, and energy programs at A&T and ASU. According to the director, Larry Shirley, the office's work has resulted in energy savings of $62 million for state government and $170 million for private businesses. I was disappointed that the House budget cut the Governor's proposal in half, and I worked to get an additional $2 million in the House budget for Energy Office programs. Eliminating the office, as the Senate proposes, is not an option.
This session has seen more focus on energy and climate change related legislation than any in the past, and this is no time to eliminate the one office focused on creating a more sustainable energy future for NC. The House is committed to saving the Energy Office. Speaker Hackney said it best: "Go figure, it's the energy session and we haven't saved the State Energy Office."
Consideration of House Bill 77, which I sponsored with Representatives Martin, Harrell, and Justice, will resume on Tuesday, June 5. House Bill 77 requires that 15% of NC's energy needs come from renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2021. Oregon just became the 24th state to adopt a renewable energy portfolio standard, and none of those states are in the Southeast.