Did North Carolina set the bar too low on renewable energy?

North Carolina took a radical step a year ago, requiring that as much as 12.5 percent of electricity in the state come from solar power, other alternative sources and conservation programs.

Hailed then as a victory for environmentalists, it was the first such requirement in the Southeastern United States. It seemed so daring that Progress Energy officials warned that the energy conservation goal might be unrealistically high. Gov. Mike Easley expressed doubt that it was achievable.

But a year seems like an eon ago.

Now, instead of celebrating their coup, environmental advocates say electric utilities got off easy. Some say nearly a third of the state's power could come from conservation programs. For proof, they point to conservation programs in other states, as well as utilities' research in this state.

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