Earlier this year Duke Energy reached its capacity for net-metering rooftop solar power in South Carolina when it began sourcing 2 percent of its energy from distributed solar arrays. Now it’s taking the relatively unusual step of asking regulators if it can add more net-metering in.
Most utilities have opposed the idea of net-metering, which helps incentivize rooftop solar installations by paying or reimbursing rooftop solar customers for electricity they put back on the grid at retail electric prices. Many contend that this practice costs them more but many studies are showing this isn’t true as solar power generates the most energy when utilities need to add in power from more expensive peaker plants. Apparently Duke Energy is understanding that’s not the case.
In a petition that Duke Energy filed with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina it requested that the commission extend the net-metering program and asked for expedited relief. In its petition it was joined by the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, SunRun, the Alliance for Solar Choice, and the South Carolina Solar Business Alliance.
The petition is for a temporary extension of the program through March in 2019. The extension will allow those involved to work to create longer-term solar incentives in upstate South Carolina, explained the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
“The success of this program to date shows that solar is working for South Carolina families,” said Lauren Bowen, staff attorney for Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). “Extending the timeline for Duke Energy Carolina’s net metering program gives more of its customers the ability to install solar as a way to manage their energy costs while collaborative discussions are underway.”
Under South Carolina’s current regulations, which were enacted four years ago, Duke Energy’s net-metering program would be capped when 2 percent of its retail peak demand was met by distributed solar power. That threshold was met earlier this year, closing the program to new applicants. Solar incentives have proven popular in the state. In just one year, for instance, it funded $12 million in solar incentives beating expectations quickly.
“Duke Energy Carolina’s net metering program has played a crucial role in reaching the state’s renewable energy goals,” said Eddy Moore, the Coastal Conservation League’s Energy and Climate Program Director. “The rapid expansion of rooftop solar put South Carolina residents to work, providing stable jobs to more than 3,000 workers across the state – jobs that are now in jeopardy due to program limits. Current laws allow utilities to change the rules for customer solar when it reaches two percent of the utility’s peak demand. Duke Energy Carolinas customers recently became the first to hit this threshold.”Tweet