When might NC WARN – a vigorous promoter of solar power for many years – NOT support a plan to add solar to North Carolina rooftops?
Answer: If Duke Energy’s upcoming solar proposal, previewed in April and due to be filed any day, is used cynically to mask – and amplify – its plans to keep building nuclear and fracking-gas plants, and to keep its coal giants running for decades.
To the extent Duke’s plan adds solar for existing large customers, it might well benefit all customers.
But we are concerned that it will further rev-up Duke’s rate-rigging scheme that we have increasingly exposed, including in the ongoing rate case. Click here for a graphic depiction of how the scheme works.
In short, Duke lures low-job, energy-hogging data centers into the state by promising dirt-cheap rates. Duke then helps these “server farms” to cut usage and save money by using solar while the sun is out. This minimizes the data centers’ grid-drawn power usage during the hottest single hour of the year – the very time when small customer usage is at its highest point of the whole year.
Why does this matter? Duke allocates power plant costs to customer classes based on that hottest single hour of the year – so it keeps rates dirt cheap for the biggest users, while driving up rates for residential, small business and local government customers.
Because the server farms use large amounts of juice, steadily, around the clock, bringing new ones into the state would allow Duke to keep claiming it must build more and more nuclear and fracking-gas plants – offsetting the benefits provided by solar.
Small customers would be subsidizing the huge profits of Apple, Google – and Duke Energy.
If Duke’s solar plan is what we suspect, it will powerfully confirm our argument that, in the current rate case, the Utilities Commission should reject Duke’s “hottest hour” rate-rigging scheme that shifts costs of new power plants to homes, small business and local governments.
We hope Duke will surprise us and instead offer a solar plan that all North Carolinians can support, and which would help in the urgent fight to slow climate change.
See later news releases for updates:
Is Duke Energy Promoting Carolina Solar – or Just Pretending To?, November 18, 2013
Clean Energy Group Questions Duke Energy’s Offer of Renewables to Giant Customers, December 4, 2013