Thousands of lost jobs and penalizing solar companies and customers so power companies can expand fossil fuels despite climate crisis
Durham, NC – Duke Energy’s attack on rooftop solar in North Carolina is being previewed in California as that state’s regulators have proposed rule changes projected to double the payback period for solar homes, cost up to 50,000 jobs and wreck efforts to slow the climate crisis.
“This is a proposal to kill rooftop solar overnight,” the California Solar and Storage Association told the New York Times. “It’s a disaster.”
These two states and others have seen a decade-long campaign by fossil-crazed utility executives to limit the growth of solar installed on rooftops so that, in Duke Energy’s case, it can build more than 50 gas-fired power units in the Carolinas. In a highly contested case, Duke is urging the NC Utilities Commission to change rooftop solar rules.
Net metering makes rooftop solar more affordable for consumers of all types by requiring utilities to compensate homes and businesses for excess solar power they feed onto the grid. It helps all power customers by providing low-cost electricity to the utility, which particularly helps during periods of high regional usage when dirty power sources are highly expensive.
As reported by Solar Industry magazine last month, if utilities get their way, solar will become unaffordable for most consumers in California, costing up to 50,000 jobs and 1,500 small businesses and derailing progress needed to fight climate change, according to the California Solar & Storage Association. The California solar industry says rooftop solar is growing fastest in working- and middle-class neighborhoods due to policies such as net metering.
Energy analysts at Washington Analysis wrote, of the California rule changes “… we continue to expect a significant reduction in the rate of export paid by utilities to rooftop solar customers for power generated from their systems that would double the average system payback time from currently about 5 years to 10 years.”
Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says the utility attack on rooftop solar “should be stopped dead in its tracks.” In a New York Times oped, the famous Republican said last week that “we should be pulling out all the stops to slow global warming … [instead of] setting up huge barriers for consumers to adopt rooftop solar.”
“The big utilities want to protect their control over energy delivery to protect their billions in profit,” states Esperanza Vielma, executive director of Environmental Justice Coalition for Water to Solar Industry magazine. “[We want] energy equity where people are free to generate and distribute their own energy in ways that are cleaner and more affordable.”
In North Carolina, Duke Energy leaders are using a similar attack that would make the payback worse for every solar household – especially low- and moderate-income ones – while misleading regulators and news media with corporate weasel-wording about its proposal.
Households already net metering would eventually be forced onto Duke’s new scheme as well, which adds fees and replaces straightforward net metering with complex compensation based on the time of day that electricity is used. Details of the grandfathering provisions are ambiguous in Duke’s proposal. NC WARN is working with 37 other pro-solar and climate justice nonprofits to oppose Duke’s scheme and to stand up for energy justice.