Duke Energy, one of the nation’s largest power companies, has in a few years become one of the largest players in the U.S. renewable energy space. The company is currently procuring hundreds of megawatts of solar each year in its service area, as well as actively developing solar and wind in more than a dozen states.
On Wednesday Duke announced that has dug deeper into renewable energy by increasing its majority stake to 100% ownership of California-based commercial and industrial (C&I) solar developer REC Solar. The company bought the remaining shares of REC in a cash transaction and has not disclosed details.
REC Solar will now be managed as an independent business unit of Duke’s renewable energy business. Duke says that the move was important for increasing its participation in the “solar services” market, citing a recent project that included solar and efficient heat through a “microgrid-as-a-service” model.
“Energy solutions specifically tailored to the commercial consumer will expand renewable energy opportunities for enterprise, municipal, educational and business customers, large and small,” explains Chris Fallon, VP of Duke Energy’s renewables and commercial portfolio.
REC also notes the advantages of the transaction.
“Duke Energy brings expertise in utility-scale renewables and enables us to be a one-stop-shop solution for customers in a complex marketplace,” said REC Solar President and CEO Matthew Walz. “We can offer our customers access to more financing options and diverse energy choices, whether it be offsite or onsite, battery storage, solar power or wind generation.”
According to GTM Research REC Solar is the third-largest developer in the highly fragmented C&I solar market, with a 3% market share.
However, these moves by Duke do not mean that the company is embracing customer-owned renewable energy. According to EQ Research Duke is currently attempting to raise fixed charges on its residential customers in three states, including a request to nearly triple such charges in Kentucky. Such fixed charges allow utilities to gain more income from their customers who install solar under net metering, and inevitably weaken the economics of customer-sited solar.