Letter: Duke’s rooftop solar scheme would reduce benefits

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Solar energy offers a way to lower your electric bills and reduce your environmental impact. The recent Solarize Asheville-Buncombe project helped 180 homeowners install solar, and its Neighbor to Neighbor program continues helping low- and moderate-income families participate.

But Duke Energy has filed a proposal with the N.C. Utilities Commission that would eliminate the financial benefits of these systems and destroy several thousand good jobs. Five environmental organizations support the proposal. A far larger group of environmental and social justice organizations oppose it and need our help.

Much of solar’s rise has been enabled by a mechanism called net energy metering. NEM customers pay Duke a basic charge for using the wires ($14 per month for most) and sign away (without compensation) the renewable energy credits their panels generate. They can then subtract energy exported to the grid from energy imported from the grid, paying only for the net amount imported. Duke sells the RECs under the Renewable Advantage program to customers who mistakenly believe they’re helping build new solar capacity.

Duke and the American Legislative Exchange Council falsely characterize NEM as a “cross-subsidy,” a transfer from poorer ratepayers to wealthier solar owners. This lie has been repeatedly debunked. For example, see Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s report at [avl.mx/bbb].

Duke’s proposed tariff would force solar customers onto a complex new time-of-use billing scheme. Buried in the complexity are numerous mechanisms which drastically reduce the payback from solar. One (which, ironically, is touted by Duke’s allies as protecting existing solar owners) would reduce the financial benefit of my own existing system by over 30%. And that’s just one among many changes for the worse.

Supporters point to Duke’s promise of a revised solar rebate program offering more certainty than the present lottery. But the new rebate is not included in Duke’s present request, and approval of a separate request is highly unlikely. The rebate promised in South Carolina failed to materialize, under conditions very similar to those here.

The need for action is urgent. The NCUC will accept public comments until March 14. For information on how to comment, see [avl.mx/bba]. North Carolina’s rooftop solar installers, their thousands of employees and everyone who has already invested in solar will thank you.

— Dave Erb


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

2 thoughts on “Letter: Duke’s rooftop solar scheme would reduce benefits

  1. Voirdire

    Duke Power… Duke Energy…. whatever they go by as of late the bottom line is always the same… that they will do everything possible to maintain their monopoly over the grid…. home roof top panels are most decidedly NOT in their business plan… but your monthly power bill from them for life is. Duke produces and sells electrical power…. it doesn’t buy it back from a bunch of home owning eco warrior off-grid wannabes… it’s that simple.

  2. Dave Erb

    I’ve recently been informed that the deadline for comments from intervening parties (those bringing lawyers to the table) is March 29th, and that public comments are open indefinitely, but that public comments are more likely to be considered by the Utilities Commission if they’re received by the intervention deadline.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.