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