By John Engel
The announcement last November was refreshing to solar energy advocates.
Duke Energy had reached an agreement on changes to its net metering policy for rooftop solar customers in North Carolina that was cheered by most solar industry trade groups. The settlement was similar to an agreement crafted a year earlier in South Carolina that Vote Solar said was rooted in “trust” and “transparency.”
The success was notable because policy updates to net metering — the mechanism that credits rooftop solar customers for surplus electricity that they send to the grid — have proven to be contentious in other states.
In California, regulators halted a net metering proposal that advocates have said would decimate the rooftop solar industry. And Florida lawmakers recently passed a bill that will eventually phase out net metering altogether.
Opposition to the net metering agreement in North Carolina came from an unusual quarter: rooftop solar installation companies and the state’s attorney general, both of which emerged in opposition to the proposed changes in mid-March, months after the proposal was released to positive reviews.
The office of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, wrote in a filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission that Duke’s process to update net metering only examined the costs of customer-sited generation, not the benefits.
The AG’s office wrote in its March 15 filing that the potential benefits range from reducing carbon emissions by offsetting fossil fuel generation to improving grid resilience “and they must be investigated and quantified.” The filing went on to urge “it would be prudent for the Commission to delay issuing an order in this docket until a later date.”