A coterie of clean energy advocates, including the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA), the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) on behalf of Vote Solar and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, have submitted comments to North Carolina regulators reaffirming their already-public support for Duke Energy’s Solar Choice Net Metering proposal, which was originally filed on November 29, 2021.
While North Carolina is only required to revisit the current net metering structure some time before 2027, the state’s current rebate program is set to expire in 2022, which has created an environment of urgency for clean-energy focused groups hoping to avoid the industry-harming effects that even a couple of weeks of incentive uncertainty can have on the residential solar market.
The groups say that the proposal, when combined with a pending Smart $aver Solar incentive, which would offer rebates to non-residential customers to install energy efficient equipment in their facilities, would still provide the upfront savings, reduced utility costs, and bill savings necessary to keep the state’s distributed solar market healthy and growing. Duke’s proposal would change the state’s base net metering incentive from the full retail rate of electricity, to the avoided cost rate represented by sourcing that electricity from distributed solar, rather than any other generating resource.
The proposal would also institute time-of-use rates, with different net metering rates for peak periods (times when projected electricity demand, and, as a result, costs, are high) and discount periods (times when projected electricity demand, and, as a result, costs, are lower). In practice, this would lower net metering rates from between $0.05 and $0.20 per kWh, as it stands today, to around $0.03/kWh. The reason for such a large variance in current rates is that the full retail rate is based on time of use and critical-peak pricing, which fluctuates, depending on the time of day and time of year.
Duke’s plan would also institute a minimum monthly bill of up to $28 for homes adding solar.
While lowered export rates and fixed fees for solar owners are both policies that the organizations included in this letter have fought against before, they do not do the industry nearly as much harm as an incentive expiration period would, something the organizations recognize. According to the advocates, the net metering successor program has been approached from a utility-collaborative perspective, in an attempt to avoid the ugly battles s over harmful proposals that rooftop solar customers have weathered in states like California and Florida.
“While there has been some concern about the changes this agreement presents to the industry, it mitigates many of the worst-case scenarios seen in the aforementioned states, which can have devastating results for rooftop solar communities,” reads a released published by NCSEA on behalf of the advocates as a group, referencing not just Florida and California, but ugly fights past in Illinois, Nevada, and Arizona.
“While NCSEA and our partners understand that this change may be difficult in the short-term, the long-term predictability affords the continued growth and sustainability of rooftop solar as a whole in North Carolina,” said to Peter Ledford, general counsel and director of policy with NCSEA.
Faces of opposition
This is not to say, however, that climate and renewable energy advocates are in favor of the proposal across the board. Earlier this month, 15 rooftop solar companies within the state sent an open letter to Governor Roy 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.”
Additionally, three climate justice nonprofits have filed a joint challenge to Duke Energy’s proposal, claiming that Duke’s plan would harm all North Carolinians, especially low-income individuals and families.
A spokesperson for the group, dubbed NC WARN, explained the position, saying:
“For 10 years, Duke executives have led the national fight against renewable energy – and fought against an honest, independent study of solar’s true value in this monopoly state. Duke’s sole argument for its proposed rules change – that solar homes don’t pay their fair share compared to non-solar households – cannot survive an impartial study that assesses solar costs and benefits.”
In addition to NC Warn’s letter, over 50 nonprofits have signed a statement opposing Duke’s proposal. A statewide TV-online ad campaign is also st to run; phase one will last four weeks and is intended to build public pressure.
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Unfortunately the settlers never included the companies that actually do Rooftop solar in NC in the conversation. If they had, we have the best overall customer data from our systems metering for thousands of customers in NC. This would have found a very different conclusion from what Duke has been saying about this plan. There is also no certainty that any incentive will be past and it only includes all electric customers, which constitutes a discrimination against other customers. It essentially says that any customers who reduce their current consumption are subject to additional fees if they reduce their consumption. Essentially, the settlers and Duke are working from a playbook that says customer consumed energy from solar systems cannot be considered as energy efficiency. This is a major problem in shifting to a distributed energy future. Lastly, the avoided cost allocation for exported power would be set at an all time low for 10 years, while the actual rate for the utility is set every 2 years. Within this context this proposal is unacceptable to the solar industry in NC regardless of the groups who profess to represent us.
Ditto 100% of what Dave Hollister said!
This highly anti Net Metering Duke Energy plan was also based on FALSE data about the transfer of costs to other customers and what I believe to be highly improper intimidation of other voices in opposition. The NC Utilities Commission is getting a large ear full on the matter in the face of what appears to have been highly improper actions and citations by Duke. The U.S. DOE has published data on this matter which seems to directly contradict what Duke has claimed.
It is very sad to see false claims and intimidation become a means of business for a regulated utility! Perhaps it is time for us all to start considering the move to a fully PV + Battery world to directly end such improper large corporation control.
Imagine paying a utility $1 per day for the mere privlege of helping them lower their generation costs and reduce their carbon emissions while their executives rake in record profits and their stock is at an all time high ($115). Blatant exploitation of a captive customer base, as who has the roof space and capital to go completely off grid? This move has zero to do with cost recovery or fairness, but everything to with revenue assurance, even as load demand decreases. Meanwhile, Duke enjoys solar and wind to meet their RPS obligations affordably and invests in systems in FL, KY and elsewhere to reduce gen costs and eliminate need for peaker plants. Show up at their March 5 board meeting and let stockholders know how you feel. Sell Duke stock now. Put your profits into a more environmentally friendly utility.
This has completely changed the direction of our solar install.
Instead of selling excess energy to Duke, we will be buying storage batteries and begin to wean ourselves off of the grid.
I look forward to the day that the service line from the transformer is removed.
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