I received another response to my piece criticizing requiring a farmer to obtain a government permit before renting his land to a solar farm – this time from a respected political group.

The group began by explaining carefully that it opposed ‘all energy tax loopholes and subsidies, regardless of the energy source.’ Which is fine. So do I.

Then it added, disapprovingly, that ‘North Carolina’s energy market currently exists in a monopoly system.’ Which is fine, too. No disagreeing with that.

But, then, the group declared that “the REPs” are a bad law.

Now, the REPs are a little known provision in utilities law that make it possible for independent solar companies to produce electricity in North Carolina.

Without REPs, utility monopolies (in North Carolina that basically means Duke Energy) have complete control of the market. The monopoly can put any independent solar company it wants out of business by simply blocking the right to build its product. REPs are what give independent solar companies a way to sell electricity in the marketplace. No REPs, no competition.

I’ll grant REPs are a peculiar provision. About the only time something like REPs make sense is when the government has granted one company – like Duke Energy – a monopoly over a market.

Since they’re peculiar, in a way doing away with REPs looks sensible. But, in fact, all it actually does is strengthen the monopoly. And reduce competition.

Is that conservative?

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