Much-hyped 2017 “renewables bill” fails broadly – except in helping Duke, Koch brothers limit clean energy growth
Duke Energy’s proposed “community solar” proposal would cause participating customers to lose 51 percent of their investment and would take five years to implement. The program is clearly designed to fail and is further proof that the Charlotte-based corporation prefers to stifle and delay – not advance – clean energy. Yesterday NC WARN told the NC Utilities Commission it should pull the plug on the ludicrous proposal and tell the legislature that Duke has failed to comply with last year’s “renewables” bill, HB589.
Approaching the anniversary of HB589, the community solar scheme is only the worst of the many profound shortcomings in the bill, which have led to ongoing fights between Duke and solar companies about how and when the different provisions would be implemented. As the Charlotte Business Journal noted recently, solar producers contend “Duke has repeatedly failed to comply with the law and agreements made during negotiations and continues to block growth opportunities.”
Key failings of Duke’s various HB589 provisions include:*
Community Solar – How Dumb does Duke Think Carolinians Are? Duke’s initial proposal was panned by critics, in part because potential subscribers – whose homes aren’t right for solar – would lose money, and because it wouldn’t begin for five years. Then, Duke made it even worse. Now, the minimum subscription would cost around $3,900 over 20 years and pay back only $1,900.
Solar Rebate is Limited & Delayed: While the rebate benefits participating customers, the program is capped at just 20 megawatts per year for 5 years and Duke has already delayed payments by nearly six months, creating uncertainty for installers and customers.
Solar Leasing is Capped & Uncertain: This provision might help customers avoid the upfront cost of solar, but it’s capped at around 250 megawatts and expires in 5 years. Only one leasing company has applied to participate. Others may be reluctant to do so since – as in South Carolina – the program may not be renewed after reaching the cap.
Net Metering is Under Attack: Duke Energy is expected to propose revised rules sometime in 2018 or early 2019. Koch-utility attacks on rooftop solar are rampant around the country. Duke supported a 65% cut in net metering credits in Kentucky and a cap in South Carolina.
Large-Scale Solar’s Future is Limited & Uncertain: As NC State University professor Harrison Fell
says, HB589 “clearly hurts solar developers by reducing … long-range certainty.” Five-hundred projects are currently stalled by the changes caused by 589.
Green Source Plan Shunned by Customers: Allowing large energy users to buy power from renewable projects makes sense. But Duke wanted a cap of 600 megawatts and a 5-year limit. Duke’s proposal – pending before regulators – has been criticized by solar developers and potential participants as too expensive and too controlled by Duke Energy.
Wind Power & Bogus Delays: HB589 placed a 2-year moratorium on new wind energy projects based on the discredited claim that they could interfere with military operations.
Duke Energy badly misled North Carolina about HB589. We urge the news media to shine light on this scheme that masks an effort to hamper the growth of renewables by providing a few short-term benefits. A page one New York Times story this week exposed the Koch brothers’ efforts to kill mass transit; the parallel effort to stifle renewable energy is clear and is playing out in North Carolina.
*See more detail in a new factsheet by NC WARN.