They say Duke proposal would slash rooftop solar, worsen climate crisis, raise rates for all North Carolinians
Three climate justice nonprofits today filed a joint challenge to Duke Energy’s proposal to change the economics of solar panels on North Carolina homes. They say Duke’s plan would harm all North Carolinians – especially low-income people already bearing the financial and climate impacts of Duke Energy’s business model of hugely expanding the use of fracked gas, stifling cheaper renewables and repeatedly raising power bills.
NC WARN attorney Matt Quinn, also representing Sunrise Durham and the NC Climate Solutions Coalition, filed initial comments in the controversial Utilities Commission (NCUC) case based on an engineer’s analysis. The groups are calling for the regulators to reject Duke Energy’s rules changes as unlawful and out of touch with state climate policies.
Seventeen NC solar companies have called on Governor Cooper to protect their growing industry from Duke’s attack, and 54 nonprofits also oppose the deal. Five trade and environmental nonprofits support the proposed changes to net metering, a process whereby utilities provide credit for the excess solar energy that homes feed onto the power grid.
Key elements of today’s joint filing against Duke’s plan include:
∞ A 2017 law plainly states that the NCUC must study the costs and benefits of net metering prior to any rules change. Duke opposes such a study, and excludes solar benefits in its internal analysis. Attorney General Josh Stein has called for a delay in the proceeding until independent cost-benefit and climate impact analyses are completed. Multiple studies show that net metering is a benefit for non-solar customers.
∞ Duke Energy’s own, newly exposed data show company officials knew their plan would cut value to countless homes adding solar panels by a market-choking 30 percent. Solar installers calculate a 25-35% drop for their average customers.
∞ The Duke plan would cause solar customers to pay the highest rates for grid power exactly when the sun is going down and little solar power is being generated (6-9 pm in summer) – despite Duke’s own 2021 pilot study that was successful with an on-peak window of 2-8pm.
∞ Duke’s changes would penalize all potential solar customers, particularly those on low and fixed incomes. Duke says it will devise a plan for low-income customers at some unspecified future time. The justice groups reject that as a hollow pledge, and propose a system-wide, on-bill financing program like the one in Hawaii that would share solar benefits equitably between all electricity customers, help slow the climate crisis and protect power bills.
∞ Duke plans to impose extravagant minimum bills upon solar customers – without providing justification and while ignoring the fact that more rooftop solar would displace much of the billions Duke wants to spend on grid upgrades.
Comments by the partner organizations:
Sunrise Durham’s Ziyad Habash: We are proud to intervene against Duke Energy’s plan to rig rooftop solar policy in its favor and squeeze the solar panel owners who threaten its monopoly. Duke Energy cannot be allowed to put rooftop solar further out of reach for working people, and the Utilities Commission should reject the proposal. Instead, North Carolina should turn its attention to promoting policies that reward, not punish, people who install solar panels on their homes.
NC Climate Solutions Coalition’s Gayle Goldsmith: It is essential that the NC Utilities Commission saves rooftop solar. The NC Climate Solutions Coalition is a party to the intervention filed by NC WARN because rooftop solar is one solution to the climate issue. The commission must disallow Duke Energy from adding costs that discourage customers from installing solar panels by making them financially out of their reach.
NC WARN’s Jim Warren: For 10 years, Duke executives have led the national fight against renewable energy – and fought against an honest, independent study of solar’s true value in this monopoly state. Duke’s sole argument for its proposed rules change – that solar homes don’t pay their fair share compared to non-solar households – cannot survive an impartial study that assesses solar costs and benefits. But that’s what the law (HB589) plainly requires the Utilities Commission to perform.