By: Taft Wireback
Activist energy group NC WARN asked the North Carolina Supreme Court today to reverse state regulators’ past rulings against its solar-power deal with a Greensboro church.
The Durham-based nonprofit appealed decisions by the state Utilities Commission and North Carolina Court of Appeals that voided its arrangement with Faith Community Church on Arlington Street.
“The North Carolina test case is a challenge to Duke Energy’s ability to prevent competition from companies that install solar systems on rooftops with little or no up front cost to the consumer, and then sell the power to the customer,” NC WARN director Jim Warren said in a news release.
Under terms of their 2015 agreement, Faith Community Church is buying its 5.2-kilowatt, rooftop solar panels from NC WARN by paying for the electricity they produce each month.
But Duke Energy spokesman Randy Wheeless said today that the prior rulings correctly upheld the concept that any group selling power to somebody else is, by definition, a public utility and must adhere to rules set by the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
Wheeless said a new state law allows solar providers to lease rooftop panels to consumers for a monthly fee, essentially accomplishing the same goal as NC WARN’s deal with the church but just not tying payments directly to electricity from the panels.