The net-metering battle is raging in increasingly more of the U.S. Now it looks like a new hotspot for solar, North Carolina, is also a new hotspot for the net-metering fight. Even as the state’s largest utility, Duke Energy, filed to increase the amount of solar it has in its grid it also filed to reduce the amount that it reimburses rooftop solar owners for the solar energy that they put back on the grid.
Earlier this month Duke Energy issued a request for proposals (RFPs) for 300 more megawatts of solar projects. The company said it will essentially double the amount of solar it has in its energy grid over the next few years. It’s growth like this that propelled the state into second place in terms of new solar energy installations in 2013, according to NPD Solarbuzz’ latest North America PV Markets Quarterly.
While that could be seen as a win for the state’s solar industry in January the company also said it aimed to reduce how much the utility has to pay or reimburse net-metered customers with solar arrays. Such a move could hurt the residential solar market and residential solar installers in the state. However, the company did not offer more clear information on its plans, but the vague statement apparently has already had an impact in the state.
“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,” contends Stewart Miller, president of Yes! Solar Solutions.
“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,” says Robert Kingery, president of Southern Energy Management.
As such, the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) today (Feb. 24) filed a motion for disclosure and equitable relief with the NCUC. NCSEA contends in the motion that Duke Energy’s claim that net metering shifts costs “from those who want solar panels to those who do not” are having a destructive “chilling” impact on the rooftop solar market in North Carolina.
In its motion, NCSEA also called for NCUC to order Duke Energy to show how net metering is unfair to its customers. Solar supporters also argue that the actions are timed to be particularly damaging as incentives like the state’s tax credit, are set to sunset soon.
“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,” contends Ralph Thompson, chairman of the North Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance. “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,” he adds.
NCSEA says Duke Energy’s claims fly in the face of a Crossborder Energy study filed by NCSEA with NCUC in 2013. That study found that north Carolina’s electric ratepayers generally benefit from the continued availability of net metering. It also finds that the benefits of rooftop solar are 30 percent greater than the costs of net metering.Tweet