By Sue Sturgis
A North Carolina minister and an environmental watchdog have sent a letter to Duke Energy President and CEO Lynn Good, criticizing the utility giant for targeting African-American community leaders as part of its campaign against rooftop solar.
Rev. Nelson Johnson, pastor of the predominantly African-American Faith Community Church and executive director of the Beloved Community Center, both in Greensboro, co-wrote the letter with Jim Warren, executive director of the Durham-based NC WARN environmental nonprofit:
As pastor of a predominantly African-American church in Greensboro, I (Rev. Nelson Johnson) have been visited in recent months by three different individuals selling Duke’s “solar power hurts the poor” message. The claim is that the poor are left to subsidize more affluent customers who are able to buy rooftop solar power systems — because the non-solar customers are left to pay more than “their share” for Duke Energy’s large, expensive power plants.
It appears evident that this “solar hurts the poor” strategy has been coordinated by Duke and its cohorts in the corporate electric power industry and used in many states recently. Fortunately, the scheme has been rejected by the NAACP’s national board, by various state NAACP chapters, and by the Congressional Black Caucus, among others. Nevertheless, Duke Energy is vigorously pursuing this same deception in North Carolina. This cynical corporate activity is an affront to the people of this state, and it is your personal responsibility to stop it.
…We also have learned that your lobbyists are spreading the same “solar hurts the poor” message with the Legislative Black Caucus. Yet, with GOP legislators, you are altering the message to say that rooftop solar harms businesses. Both of these presentations serve the purpose of confusing the public and distorting the truth.
The letter notes that solar power actually helps all customers — including those in communities of color — by reducing overall electricity usage and thus the need to build costly new plants that require rate hikes.