The North Carolina net metering battle heats up with help from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association. The organization has filed a motion before the NC Utilities Commission seeking to remedy the negative effects from Duke Energy’s statements about net metering.
The state of solar in North Carolina has been in flux. North Carolina climbed to #2 top solar state last year, but much of that growth is attributable to utility-scale installations. When it comes to rooftop solar in the state, the story is a bit different. As we interview North Carolina homeowners about their experiences going solar, the frustration with the state’s largest utility is becoming evident.
In January, Duke Energy Corporation officials said they will seek to reduce the rates it pays North Carolina solar customers for the power they send back to the grid. That led to a scathing ad from TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar Won’t be Killed), which aimed to highlight the utility’s likely motive of profit protection.
The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) is fighting back. Today, NCSEA filed a motion for disclosure and equitable relief at the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). In the motion, NCSEA says that Duke Energy’s recent statements are having a chilling effect on the state’s rooftop solar market. The motion specifically points to Duke Energy’s assertions that net metering shifts costs “from those who want solar panels to those who do not,” which NCSEA does not believe is the case.
The motion has already received broad support from installers in the state. According to NCSEA, installer support spans over half of the North Carolina rooftop solar market.
In a statement attached to the motion, Jason Epstein, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Baker Renewable Energy, said, “Because of how Duke Energy Corporation is messaging without having filed anything definitive at the Utilities Commission, we are not in a position to be as responsive as we would like or to provide the customer service we would like.”
“This is bad for business,” added Dave Hollister, President of Sundance Power Systems.
Stewart Miller, President of Yes! Solar Solutions, stated, “I believe Duke Energy Corporation’s mere messaging is contributing to potential rooftop solar customers sitting on the sidelines until there is more certainty about the future of net metering.”
Robert Kingery, President of Southern Energy Management, concurred: “Our sales team has reported that multiple clients are in a holding pattern, having expressed uncertainty and a desire to wait until the dust settles on net metering before making a solar investment.”
NCSEA filed a 2013 Crossborder Energy study with the motion. The study, which used data from North Carolina utilities, came to these conclusions:
Net metering is not only fair to all North Carolina ratepayers, but all ratepayers “generally would benefit from the continued availability of net metering.”
Based on the midpoints of the ranges of costs and benefits, the benefits of rooftop solar are 30% greater than its costs.
Duke Energy’s claims that net metering is unfair contradict this evidence. So NCSEA is asking the NCUC to order Duke Energy to provide the analysis supporting its claims.
In light of the chilling effect already being seen in North Carolina, NCSEA’s motion goes further. NCEA is concerned that the negative effect of Duke Energy Corporation’s statements is particularly damaging because of its timing. There’s currently a short window of opportunity to make use of the state tax credit. NCSEA says in its motion, “Given Duke Energy Corporation’s market dominance, its messaging – timed as it is and in the absence of a filing at the Commission – constitutes a destructive competitive practice that runs counter to State policy and should be redressed.”
As is happening in other states, North Carolina solar is finding allies among free-market proponents. Ralph Thompson, Board Chairman of the North Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance, said, “As the motion points out, this type of destructive market influence is exactly why our State Constitution says monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free state.”