Challenge continues vs Duke Energy’s monopoly and its attack on solar and nonprofits
NC WARN today filed a brief with the NC Court of Appeals in the test case over our sales of solar power to the Faith Community Church in Greensboro. We’re calling on the Court to overturn an April 15 NC Utilities Commission order that sided with Duke Energy and granted the utility’s request to heavily penalize NC WARN for selling solar electricity.
The case is a challenge to Duke Energy’s monopoly blockade against companies that install solar power systems on rooftops with little or no up-front cost to the customer. Such “third-party” financing arrangements have been key to the growth of rooftop solar in other states. Many utilities are fighting against third-party in order to dampen the surge in solar power.
Key points in today’s filing include:
. The Commission is required to align its decisions with public policy. By trying to block our project, it is ignoring state policy promoting private investment in renewable energy.
. NC WARN is not selling electricity “to or for the public.” We’re providing a financing arrangement to a single non-profit entity, therefore not acting as a public utility.
. Our sales to the church don’t “compete with Duke Energy in its exclusive franchise territory,” as the Commission claimed. In fact, we’re providing a service Duke doesn’t offer its customers.
. The Commission is wrong to state that other long-term solar financing options are available to the church. A third-party arrangement is important for advancing rooftop solar in this state.
. The Commission is so fixated on the church’s monthly payments to NC WARN for solar power, it failed to examine the key function of the financing arrangement.
In citing another appeals case, NC WARN attorney Matt Quinn wrote in today’s brief: “… it is crucial to understand that NC WARN and Duke are not in competition at all: in the Greensboro service area, Duke does not have a program similar to that offered by NC WARN in [this contract].”
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” – on the same day installation of the church’s solar system was announced in June, 2015 – in an effort to clarify the limitations against third party solar financing arrangements.
NC WARN agreed to temporarily suspend sales of solar electricity to the church pending resolution of the case. So the church is benefiting from free power from the sun. The Commission ordered NC WARN to donate the 5.2 kilowatt solar system to the church. We replied that we will honor our original contract with the church – to donate the system if a final decision on appeal in the test case finds that our arrangement is unlawful.
Duke Energy executives sought the unprecedented penalty in order to stifle NC WARN in various fights against the giant corporation.
Thanks largely to Duke and the Koch brothers, North Carolina lags well behind in rooftop solar and is among the most restrictive states for rooftop solar policies.