Challenging Duke Energy’s monopoly blockade against competition, NC WARN begins Court of Appeals process
NC WARN is moving the test case over our selling solar power to a Greensboro church to the courts, where we seek to overturn the NC Utilities Commission’s pro-Duke Energy ruling and a truly odd penalty it levied against us.
Yesterday NC WARN filed a Notice of Appeal that begins the appellate process. As summarized by our attorneys, the Commission’s ruling “is unlawful, unjust, unreasonable and unwarranted … is in excess of statutory authority, affected by errors of law, unsupported by competent, material and substantial evidence, and is arbitrary and capricious.”
The test case is a challenge to Duke Energy’s blockade against competition from companies that install sun-power systems on rooftops with little or no up-front cost to the customer. Such financing arrangements have been key to the growth of rooftop solar in many other states. Utilities have fought against such “third-party sales” in order to protect their monopolies from the surge in solar power.
Among the Commission’s errors we cite in the filing:
- NC WARN is not selling electricity “to or for the public,” but instead is providing a financing arrangement to a single non-profit entity. Therefore, NC WARN is not acting as a public utility.
- The Commission claims NC WARN’s sales to the church “competes with Duke Energy in its exclusive franchise territory.” But we are providing a service not offered by Duke Energy to its customers, so we’re not competing with the corporate monopoly.
- Contrary to the Commission’s claim, long-term solar financing is typically not an option for non-profits such as the church, so a third-party arrangement is important for advancing rooftop solar in this state.
- By claiming North Carolina is a “nationwide leader in adding renewable generation,” the Commission ignores that the high ranking is driven by independent, utility scale installations. North Carolina lags well behind in rooftop solar and is among the most restrictive states for rooftop solar policies.
- Regarding the $60,000 penalty against NC WARN, which is currently suspended, the Commission claims we “knowingly” violated the law. Instead, we brought this arrangement to the Commission as a “test case” in an effort to clarify the limitations against third party solar financing arrangements.
As attorney Matt Quinn wrote regarding the penalty, our “arguments were well-supported in evidence and law, and [NC WARN] committed no violation whatsoever, much less knowingly. NC WARN should not be subject to any sanctions.”
Duke Energy obviously sought the unprecedented penalty in order to stifle NC WARN in various fights against the corporate behemoth. We have agreed to temporarily suspend sales of solar electricity to the Faith Community Church pending a final decision in the courts.