24 climate justice groups challenge plan to limit rooftop solar, lock in gas expansion
NC WARN said today that 23 other nonprofit organizations are backing its challenge to a pending Duke Energy proposal they say would limit rooftop solar to the affluent, stifle the growing solar market and amplify the global climate crisis. The Durham-based watchdog says Duke’s scheme continues a years-long campaign by the Kochs and other polluters to strangle solar and wind energy as they have become the cheapest form of electric power.
NC WARN first issued its challenge in February, saying the deal – proposed last fall in South Carolina – would harm North Carolina customers if, as planned, Duke asks this state’s regulators to approve it. Among the complaints are a doubling of today’s flat monthly fee to $30 for homes adding solar and setting 6-9 pm – when little solar power is produced – as the period when homes get the most credit for electricity they feed onto the grid.
The groups signing an NC WARN statement also say Duke’s solar plan particularly harms low-income customers by boosting Duke’s plan to build more than 50 fracked-gas-burning power units at an unknown number of Carolinas sites. They say constant rate hikes and worsening climate impacts accompany the expanded use of methane, which is also called natural gas.
Although renewable power is now cheaper than fossil fuels and could replace gas as the backbone of North Carolina’s energy future, receiving a fair price for excess kilowatt-hours fed onto the grid by rooftop systems is important to the industry’s expansion.
Bobby Jones, head of the Down East Coal Ash and Environmental Justice Coalition, is helping build opposition to Duke’s solar plan. “We’re tired of communities of color and low incomes getting nothing from Duke Energy but its coal ash and dirty power generation,” he said today. “We’re calling for a just system where solar power can equitably benefit all North Carolinians.”
The grassroots pressure in NC comes even as a South Carolina ruling in a related case casts doubt on the settlement Duke reached with various organizations. SC regulators rejected Dominion Energy’s claim that rooftop solar causes non-solar customers to pay more for their power.
That “solar hurts the poor” message has been promoted by fossil fuel interests for years. In 2015, Greensboro’s Rev. Nelson Johnson co-authored a letter to Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good chiding Duke leaders for their role in that national propaganda campaign.**
NC WARN has vowed a legal challenge to Duke’s solar scheme. Also, the group and several ally groups will raise their concerns during a comprehensive rate design stakeholder process launched yesterday following an order from the NC Utilities Commission in Duke’s recent rate case. The commission ordered Duke to simplify and modernize its rate structure, including net metering.
* Nonprofits Endorsing the Challenge to Duke Energy’s Net Metering Plan in NC:
Down East Coal Ash Environmental and Social Justice Coalition
Beloved Community Center of Greensboro
Concerned Citizens of Tillery
Ministers’ Conference of Winston Salem & Vicinity
NC Poor People’s Campaign, Ecological Devastation Committee
Durham Youth Climate Justice Initiative
NC Climate Justice Collective
Black Workers for Justice
Alliance for Climate Education (ACE)
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
APPPL: Alliance to Protect the People and the Places We Live
350 Winston Salem
NC Climate Solutions Coalition
Valley Watch, Inc.
Rachel Carson Council
Silk Hope Catholic Worker
Baltimore, MD Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter Veterans for Peace
Progressive Democrats of Buncombe
Environmental Working Group
Center for Biological Diversity