The North Carolina General Assembly convened for its second session of the biennium, commonly referred to as the Short Session, on May 16, 2018, and, with no limits to session length, adjourned on June 29, 2018. The Short Session was originally intended to make any necessary modifications to the state’s two-year budget based on revenue projections but has grown to be a session where other substantive legislation can be considered. That is, as long as the legislation passed its house of origin in the prior legislative session – the Long Session.
Although there were numerous bills we monitored, in the 2018 Short Session, ElectriCities primarily focused on two key pieces of legislation: Wireless Communications Infrastructure Siting (commonly referred to as Small Cell Wireless legislation), and Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina (legislation resulting from a lengthy stakeholder process).
As originally drafted, House Bill 310 Wireless Infrastructure Siting would have severely limited a city’s ability to control the location of wireless antennas and support structures and would limit amounts that could be charged. ElectriCities’ legislative team actively worked with stakeholders across the industry to ensure our concerns were addressed. As a result, the revised bill that was ultimately passed by the General Assembly stated that wireless providers must have a pole attachment agreement with the municipality, and the wireless provider must go through permitting processes for access to city right-of-ways. The bill also provided that municipal electric providers can deny wireless providers access to city utility poles, street lights and traffic control poles.
ElectriCities was also an active participant in an energy stakeholder process that began several months prior to the Short Session, but the process continued on even after the legislative session got underway. Our legislative team worked diligently with stakeholders across the industry to come up with consensus legislation that passed the House in early June. The conference report for House Bill 589 Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina then ultimately passed both bodies just prior to adjournment on June 29. The one big change to the bill toward the end of the process was the addition of an 18-month moratorium on wind energy projects. ElectriCities was pleased to support the bill in its final form and we believe the reforms outlined in the bill will have a positive impact on the industry. The bill amends energy policy laws by reforming the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA), creates a bidding process for new renewable energy sources, and authorizes leasing of third-party owned solar developments. The bill also provides the option for municipalities to participate in third party leasing.