North Carolina Solar Installers Settlement with Duke Energy Approved by NC Utilities Commission

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A rate modification for solar customers in North Carolina was recently approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). This has an impact on people living in North Carolina who want to use the utility grid that Duke Energy manages for what is essentially a form of energy storage, which is done through a process called net metering.

The “net metering” regulations for rooftop solar payments in North Carolina have been in effect since 2000. Customers whose solar panels generate more electricity than they immediately require receive “credits” on their bills for the amount of the excess energy production. In 2017 and 2021, the NC Legislature passed laws requiring state regulators to update those regulations. The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) followed through by approving Duke Energy’s plan in March 2023.

Early last year, Duke and the North Carolina Rooftop Solar Installers (NCRSI), a group that represents the state’s rooftop solar business, intervened in the NCUC net-metering case and negotiated a settlement that prevented a sharp decline in the value of solar for NC solar customers. YES Solar’s Stew Miller, David Hollister of Sundance Power Systems, and Southern Energy Management’s Bob Kingery served as the group’s leaders, with assistance from 17 other solar businesses from across North Carolina.

The “Stipulation” that NCRSI and Duke agreed upon was approved and gives solar consumers the option of a bridge rate during the changeover period. People are now able to switch to solar energy under a plan that will enable a smooth transition (or something like that) to the prices listed in Duke’s initial submission, which will take effect on January 1st, 2027. That said, the long-term change is not appreciated or supported by the rooftop solar industry.

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“The majority of people in North Carolina are in favor of customer-sited solar energy being expanded there. In order to get North Carolina’s solar clients the greatest bargain, NCRSI worked hard to achieve this,” said Sundance Power Systems’ Dave Hollister.

“I hope that in a future docket or law the legislature, NCUC and NC Public Staff iterate their views of small-scale solar and storage as valuable for the grid. With this support NC can grow into a leader in distributed generation solar like it has been in utility scale solar for years now.” said Bob Kingery, Co-founder and CEO of Southern Energy Management.

The main driving force behind these legislative reforms is the growing allure of solar as an investment and an answer to the climate crisis. Supporting their traditional business models is a challenge for utilities nationally, including Duke Energy, if a large portion of the population is going solar. So they are trying to slow down rooftop solar adoption.

“Despite efforts like these to slow down customer generation of electricity, I remain confident that homeowners will continue to invest in solar to save money on rising electricity costs, reduce personal taxes with the 30% ITC, and participate in the fight against climate change.” said Stew Miller, co-founder and President of Yes Energy Solutions.

The solar industry was adamant about establishing consumer protections for residents of North Carolina in negotiations with Duke Energy. According to the NCUC’s order, which was delivered on March 23, 2023, Duke must develop an online calculator within 60 days after that date. For systems created for a given site, the calculator will give an estimate of the electrical and financial return. According to NCRSI and others, this calculator is essential for the transition authorized by this order.

It looks like the time to go solar in North Carolina is right now, to sum it up. There is an opportunity for homeowners to protect themselves from present and future rate adjustments while reaping the benefits of solar.

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