Attorney General among critics of gold-plated, wasteful grid projects and attacks on non-residential solar buried in separate rate case; a ruling is forthcoming
Duke Energy Carolinas sought an approval short-cut by hiding $170 million in over-priced grid projects under thousands of pages in a mostly unrelated rate-hike case. It did the very same with a sneak attack on non-residential solar net metering.
The corporate giant got caught by NC WARN and others, but the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC) rejected various parties’ requests to deal with those major changes out in the open – in separate proceedings where they could be carefully debated.
That’s the miserable trend in North Carolina, where Duke Energy’s decades of unholy political influence is bruising the public worse than ever before – including solar power companies, rate payers and, most of all, those suffering from climate disasters.
Today NC WARN attorney Matt Quinn filed a brief explaining why the NCUC must reject both the grid scheme and solar attack when it rules on the voluminous rate case. Key points include:
GRID PRICES WILDLY INFLATED
- Duke Energy seeks a precedent for upcoming years of grid additions and upgrades by vastly over-pricing high-voltage grid upgrades where it hasn’t demonstrated the need.
- Duke would gain up-front billing for grid upgrades worth over $170 million – at twice the per-mile pricing of some other US utilities. (pg. 15)
- Attorney General Josh Stein’s expert says Duke is misleading regulators and “severely underestimates” the costs and rate impacts of this first leg of a long grid buildout. (pg. 11)
- The NCUC’s own Public Staff cites lower cost alternatives (pg. 8) and lack of justification. It also says Duke could be set to double-bill customers for grid costs, if approved, and that the overall 3-year grid maintenance projection of $12.2 billion is “shocking.”
- The Southern Environmental Law Center showed how the monopoly is incentivized to maximize grid investments regardless of more affordable alternatives.
SOLAR ATTACK ON BUSINESSES, SCHOOLS, FAITH GROUPS
- NC House Bill 589 flatly prohibits changes to solar net metering rules until after the NCUC conducts an independent cost-benefit analysis. Under cross examination by Quinn, Duke Energy’s witness admitted that even the energy giant hasn’t studied the costs and benefits of its requested changes.
- State law also prohibits discrimination against any electricity customer class. But Duke is seeking to lump a wide range of customers into a one-size-fits-all, time-of-use rate, which would particularly harm solar investments by houses of worship and others with variable power usage patterns.
It’s no wonder Duke Energy sought to hide both of these monopoly greed-driven initiatives from public scrutiny. The state’s rooftop solar industry is already being harmed by Duke’s residential net metering changes that the NCUC rubber-stamped, which went into effect October 1 despite a pending court challenge.
We’d like to think the NCUC will follow the law and reject Duke’s grid gold-plating and attack on business-nonprofit solar net metering, thus avoid more court fights.