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NC Pork Council appeals state's swine-waste ruling

The NorthCarolina Pork Council is challenging state regulators' decision to allow to useswine waste from out of state to meet North Carolina's renewable energy requirements.

The NorthCarolina Utilities Commission on March 11 issued an order that registers the utility's 697.3-MWBuck and 671.9-MWDan River combined-cyclegas plants as new renewable energy facilities. The power plants will combust directedbiogas derived from swine waste and other biomass to generate electricity.

In addition,regulators held that the renewable energy credits, or RECs, associated with theuse of the directed biogas supplied by companies in Oklahoma and Missouri will notbe deemed out-of-state RECs limited to 25% of the utility's renewable energy andefficiency portfolio standard, or REPS, requirements. (Docket Nos. E-7, Sub 1086and E-7, Sub 1087)

"Theswine waste RECs produced at Buck and Dan River would be RECs derived from generatingelectricity at in-state new renewable energy facilities and, therefore, not subjectto the 25% limitation," the order states, in part.

NorthCarolina law passed in2007 requires investor-owned utilities to generate up to 12.5% of their energy needsthrough renewable energy resources, including swine and poultry waste, by 2021.

The NorthCarolina Pork Council on April 8 filed a notice of its appeal of the commission'sruling to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

"NCPCand its members have a direct and substantial interest in the implementation ofthe REPS and specifically the swine waste set-aside, and are adversely affectedby the commission's ruling in the order that allows the use of out-of-state swinewaste to meet the requirements of North Carolina's swine waste set-aside,"the filing states.

The councilargues that the commission's order exceeds its "statutory authority, is affectedby errors of law and should be vacated or reversed."

Whilecalling the pork council's argument against the use of out-of-state swine waste"compelling" and admitting that the General Assembly's "main purposein enacting the swine waste" requirement was to incentivize the use of newtechnologies in North Carolina, state regulators said it is up to the Legislatureto impose additional limitations on REPS compliance.

The renewablefuel suppliers are listed as High Plains Bioenergy LLC in Guymon, Okla., and RoesleinAlternative Energy of Missouri LLC in Princeton, Mo.

A DukeEnergy spokesman previously noted that less than 1% of the plants' generation willcome from biogas, but the plants will supply 50% of Duke Energy Carolinas' swine-wastecarve-out in 2020.

NorthCarolina regulators have delayedthe swine-waste requirement several times, largely because the technology associatedwith the power production is in its early stages of development and cautious lendersand investors have hindered progress.

"Noparty presented evidence that the aggregate 2015 swine waste set-aside requirementcould be met," the NCUC said in a Dec. 1, 2015, order.

The state'sutilities are now required to generate 0.07% of their electricity from swine-wasteresources in 2016-2017.

Underthe commission's December 2015 order, waste-to-energy requirements will still graduallyincrease, eventually mandating that suppliers generate 0.20% of their power fromswine waste in 2021 and thereafter, and 900,000 MWh from poultry waste by 2017.