Today three of the longest-established rooftop solar companies in North Carolina will jointly intervene in the North Carolina Utility Commission (NCUC) net metering docket in order to challenge Duke Energy’s proposal to change the rules.
Duke’s plan would institute a minimum monthly bill of up to $28 for homes adding solar and would lower the price paid for their excess power by up to two-thirds from the current retail rate. Additionally, a rebate for solar customers who also install a smart thermostat may not be approved. If it is approved, it will only be for homes heated with electricity and is not available to current solar owners.
For Dave Hollister, president of Sundance Power, a leading solar installer in North Carolina, this is ultimately a battle over who owns the energy. “When utilities look through such a narrow lens of cost shifting they’re applying a litmus test that doesn’t apply to any other ratepayer. Rooftop solar is such a small fraction of electrical sales in this state that it poses no threat to Duke Energy currently. They’re hedging their bet without fully complying to the letter of the law [HB 529], which states that ‘The rates shall be nondiscriminatory and established only after an investigation of the costs and benefits of customer-sited generation.’ No such investigation has been conducted. ,” Hollister said.
Also today, 15 of North Carolina’s rooftop solar companies sent an open letter to Governor Cooper calling for his help to protect rooftop solar from Duke’s attempt to weaken the industry. The letter states, “We believe the proposed changes could harm a growing industry on behalf of a single corporation, cause the loss of thousands of well-paying jobs in the North Carolina solar industry, threaten your climate goals and hurt all electricity customers by limiting the delivery of low-cost power to the grid.”
Changes in net metering rules in California and Florida have forced the industry to react quickly. In California, the Net Metering 3.0 proposal, which was called a solar-killing measure, was put on hold after it came under fire from industry leaders, environmentalists, and working Californians. Just this week Florida’s House passed a bill that calls for the rate paid by utilities to rooftop solar owners for electricity sent back to the grid to be phased down to a fraction of its original rate, and it opens the door for unlimited fixed fees to be levied on solar customers.
These net-metering changes are pitched as a protection for non-solar customers from raised rates through cross-subsidizing solar customers. Studies completed by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that 40 of the 43 states and Washington D.C. with net metering programs have a negligible cost increase attributed to solar.
Will Giese, southeast regional director of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) sees these bills as a threat to the 100,000+ Florida homeowners who have installed rooftop solar and to the 11,000 jobs created in the state. “Utilities are now banking on the state government to strip those rights away and pad their monopoly hold on electricity ,” Giese said. The Florida bill now goes to the Governor’s desk.
Following the anti-rooftop solar playbook
“There’s much national attention on utility efforts to choke rooftop solar, and it’s increasingly clear to me that this case could be pivotal to flipping Duke Energy’s climate-wrecking, ‘expand gas, limit renewables’ business model,” said Jim Warren, executive director of NC WARN.
The North Carolina rooftop solar proponents point out that rooftop solar is good for all electricity ratepayers, which is in contrast to Duke Energy’s stance. In testimony in October 2020 in a South Carolina Public Service Commission proceeding, Crossborder Energy of Berkeley, CA made the statement that, “There is not presently a cost shift from solar customers to non-participating ratepayers, and distributed solar is a cost-effective resource for DESC (Duke Energy South Carolina) ratepayers.”
Stew Miller, co-founder and president of Yes Solar Solutions, a leading installer in North Carolina and signer of the letter, thinks that Duke is “following the playbook that utilities in California and Florida are using to slow the growth of their only competitors … their current ratepayers that want the freedom to generate a portion of their own electricity.”
In addition to the letter, over 50 nonprofits have signed a statement opposing Duke’s scheme. A statewide TV-online ad campaign will begin soon; phase one will last four weeks and is intended to build public pressure.
North Carolina is currently generating 8.07% of its electricity from solar and ranks fourth in the country for solar installed, according to SEIA. The North Carolina General Assembly and utilities have set goals of net-zero emissions by 2050 for the electric power sector, and the letter states that “it is inconsistent for Duke Energy to propose a policy that would slow the growth of clean energy.”
The bottom line is that the Duke proposal is bad for ratepayers and for solar installers. “Initial modeling indicates the value of solar to NC customers is reduced by 25%-30% due to increased monthly fees, TOU rates, critical peak pricing and significantly lower credit for excess generation,” Miller said.
The NCUC extended the deadline for parties to intervene in the case and to file initial comments to March 29.
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“A statewide TV-online ad campaign will begin soon; phase one will last four weeks and is intended to build public pressure.” Thank goodness for that! I hope it works!
Same dumb idea. The utilities clearly colluding/coordinating on a strategy here… look for some ALEC like organization in the background.
I can see lowering the export tariff for new NEM customers if that is no longer necessary. Show me numbers that pay for the true value to society of decentralized generation and we can talk.
But hitting solar customers with a monthly tax is ridiculous. Solar owners have less dependency on the grid, not more than other customers. If that fee is necessary all customers should pay it. And if anything you should give solar owners a break on it.
So what’s the argument? That solar customers are rich and can afford it? Well solar customers aren’t poor but they are not necessarily rich. And there are a lot of rich customers. Why target solar customers specifically?
Or do they just want residential solar net metering to go away? So the concept is, tax the behavior you what you want less of.
This is what I think this is really about. I won’t even entertain the laughable “equity” argument and no one should.
Electrification and greening the grid is a societal goal. Society should be on the hook for paying for it. It’s insane to expect the homeowners getting on board with the societal goal, risking their own capital, to cover extra societal costs of greening the grid just because they stepped up.
When I installed my solar Cpl welcome me they were running short of generating enough power
Soon cheap solar and batteries, with attractive long term financing options, will make utilities obsolete for many customers in high sunlight locales like California and Florida.
There is alot more to power than just some panels on your roof. Solar should not go on individual homes. It should be but into solar fields and maintained by professionals. Half the homeowners out there cannot even properly maintain their homes in a reasonable manner. Just like the Government telling us to go buy electric cars. Who’s going to pay me the value for my gasoline car now. Were not all rich like politicians are.
And the oops are not in compliance with federal regs either.
This is exactly what I have been saying, and talking to installers about. Ok also intend to go to the press with this story.
Three things to do if these rules go into effect.
1, use up as much of the electricity you produce daily. If you want to replace the natural gas hot water heater with an electric one in the summer, put in a parallel system that can be switched.
2, Run electric heaters or electric appliances instead of gas ones to burn up the extra electricity.
3. Install the cheapest batteries and charge them daily and then use them to power appliances and lights during the peak tariff times your utility has made to make you pay more. An uninterruptable power supply (UPS) is a great way to run lights and small appliance during peak hours or during black outs. Put them on a time clock and have them switch off the utility at peak times. You can always bypass the time clock during rainy days, but they will pay for themselves over the long run. The built-in charger will use the extra electricity they won’t pay for, to charge the batteries. You can even swap out the small 12-volt batteries for larger ones you wire externally.
Unfortunately, until batteries drop in price, like solar panels have, we cannot go completely off grid yet unless we have the extra dollars to buy the more expensive battery-based systems. I have built such a system but as an Inside wireman, I could do all the work myself and get great discounts on the things necessary to build it. We need the grid to work, we also need all lower pricing on what we buy from it.
Yeah. If this proposal goes through you best bet I will be installing a power wall. It’s about choice. Just like someone chooses one cell provider over another.
“Studies completed by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that 40 of the 43 states and Washington D.C. with net metering programs have a negligible cost increase attributed to solar.”
Solar is an exponential technology. 40 states can turn into 20 states very quickly – i.e. 2, 3, 4 years. One of the amazing things about solar is how predictable it is. You can use the historical predictability of solar to forecast growth rates, LCOEs and other stuff. LBNL puts out a steady stream of great research. It wouldn’t have taken them much time to extrapolate NEM policies in the other 40 states and show how much runway they have. All the runways quickly end in regressive cost shifts. Solar isn’t a new thing anymore. Why are we pretending old policies can continue to push it forward? Most of you guys on the thread are either lying to yourselves or misinformed.
I think this new policy in NC is wonderful. The rooftop market will take a hit but the upsides outweigh the downsides.
I agree, the utility grid is the life’s blood of America. We are totally dependent on it. If a customer wants to use Solar or wind power and place the extra energy onto the grid instead of buying and maintaining batteries, there should be some kind of compensation given to the utilities to keep up the infrastructure that makes this all possible. The question is, how can the customer make good their investment, on their system, while also compensating the utility?
My suggestion is simple. For every kilowatt the customer generates and does not use in real time, the excess energy is counted as a percentage of a kilo watt hour to cover the infrastructure costs. IE if the infrastructure costs of transmission and distribution are 50% of the cost then a 50% credit is generated for the customer to get back. If the infrastructure costs are 66%, then a 34% credit is generated for the customer to get back. When building the system, the customer can calculate the percentage of the exchange and add additional solar panels and inverter size to gain enough credits, under the proposed system, that the energy credits will still power the customers home and provide the extra electricity that the utility can sell to other customers to make enough to cover the infrastructure costs. Knowing this, a customer can calculate if putting the extra energy into a battery, with a net 84% to 94% energy turn around compared to the utilities 34% “infrastructure calculation reduction” would make financial sense.
My Tesla Solar Glass Roof contractor had originally offered me a roof with 13,000 watts of solar tiles but that would have generator more power than my previous year’s bill and with NEM-2.0, I would have been 5000 kilo watt hours over my annual use with only a 3 cents per kilo watt hour pay back at “True-up” or $150.00 per year on the additional $15,000.00 worth of solar tiles. If the utility only gave back a small percentage of what I put onto the grid based on a percentage, the extra 5000 kilo watt hours could have provided the utility with the extra revenue upon re-sale and covered the infrastructure requirements of my system without some kind of “monthly solar fee” that being proposed as compensation.
As electric vehicles and the retirement of Natural Gas appliances become more prevalent, the grids need will even become more apparent over time so building bigger systems rather than smaller systems, as now required, would make more sense. The solar panels have actually become the lesser cost to inverters, labor, permits and connection fees etc. so adding more panels up front would be the most beneficial and cost-efficient way to help the customer and the utility financially while building for the future.
Try running the numbers Ed… North Carolina has extremely competitive solar installation costs – some of the best in the US. On top of this the annual load matches up to solar production quite well in North Carolina so you should be able to achieve natural self-consumption rates of 50%. This can be bumped up to 65 to 75% by using technologies like Harvest Thermal. Over 60% of the homes in NC heat with electricity so it’s one of the best markets in the US for these sorts of load control technologies.
The high self-consumption rates mean you won’t see the low back-feed prices as much as you would in a climate like Germany. I think SEIA, Vote Solar and SELC ran the numbers and found that rooftop solar would continue to be very competitive. My rough calculations show the Internal Rate of Return will stay above 10%. That’s still a very good investment.
I think this is yet another case of over-enthusiastic rooftop solar supporters crying wolf. Over 80% of the solar in NC is utility-scale solar. One of the interesting things people do don’t seem to realize is that utility-scale solar folks want these sorts of changes because they will increase the value of their product.
Here’s a link to a smart water heater that helps bump up self-consumption rates. For those who don’t know, self-consumption is using the production from your PV system as it is produced. There are two types of self-consumption: 1. Natural self-consumption… Basic idea here is that there’s a certain amount of natural alignment between household load and PV production (typicallly 30 to 50%). 2. Engineered-self-consumption… Basic idea here is you use load control technologies to bump up your self-consumption rates. The four major residential self-consumption technologies are smart thermostats, water heaters, EVs and (where applicable) pool pumps. The careful management of these loads can shift 10, 20, 30 kWh a day that would otherwise be back-fed into the grid. This allows you to boost your natural self-consumption rates from 30 to 50% up to 80 to 90%.
One of the great things about self-consumption technologies is that even households without rooftop PV systems can benefit from deploying these technologies and managing their loads. Another great thing about these technologies is that they’re much cheaper than batteries.
“Around 10.80 kWh of the 17.50 kWh of electricity produced by a typical household is generally consumed, for an average self-consumption rate of 38%. But by heating the water with this system, the amount of consumed electricity increases to 15.70 kWh, for a 69% self-consumption rate.”
It is not ok to change the rate structure of existing customers. It makes sense to have a balanced time of use structure going forward to incentivize generation at helpful times to the grid. That is the only real way to allow more widespread adoption of renewable generation.
However, for home and business owners who invested in their system that was designed under the current rate structure it is just unbelievably unfair to change how they are compensated. How were they supposed to anticipate what the rate change would be? Duke does not even have it entirely finalized yet! There is not a level of solar currently on the grid that causes issues. Current net metering customers should be grandfathered in, that seems like a baseline request.
I feel that Duke is being very short sited and greedy.
I currently have solar and still pay $28 line and tax fees per month. With the stored amount being taken in July every year I feel like solar wasn’t worth it. If I could have it removed I would. If the fees go up and the buy back is reduced by 2/3 , I think I will have a monthly Duke generate bill as we as the fee and the cost yo buy the system each month. This idea by Duke is.a horrible idea for the residential market
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