- Duke Energy has begun offering South Carolina customers a solar rebate, as the oft-criticized utility begins to expand its renewable footprint in the Palmetto State.
- Duke's distributed resource program could boost the its renewable footprint in the state from just 2 MW to up to 170 MW by 2021, helped by the $1-per-watt rebates.
- The utility announced the rebates on Wednesday, two days ahead of a report from green advocates Environmental NC, expected to be critical of its solar policies.
Duke Energy has faced heavy criticism for its stance on solar. For instance, a report arriving today from Environmental NC is expected to be critical of the utility's policies and lobbying efforts. But in South Carolina, Duke has announced a solar rebate program that will lower costs for by up to 33% for customers installing solar panels.
“For many of our residential and small business customers, installing solar on their property is a significant investment," said Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy president of South Carolina operations, in a statement. “We believe a rebate coupled with our net metering incentive provides customers a meaningful financial incentive to seriously consider going solar.”
State regulators signed off on the rebate in July. It will provide a $1/watt-dc for residential customers who install systems up to 20 KW-ac, and for business customers who install systems up to 1 MW-ac. Residential customer who installs a typical 5-kW system would earn about $5,000 under the program, and typical business rebates would be about $50,000.
Systems installed as of the beginning of this year are also eligible, the utility said.
Over the summer, Duke introduced a net metering rider which allows customers to receive 1:1 retail credit for excess energy they produce from their solar installations through 2025. The utility said customers who choose not to net meter may elect to sign a power purchase agreement with the company, under which the solar owner would sell to Duke Energy all of the energy produced and delivered to the grid by the solar installation.
Since March, South Carolina has been prepped for solar since solar advocates and utilities signed off on a policy package to prepare the state for high solar penetration. North Carolina, in contrast, has seen some fierce opposition to rooftop solar, evidenced by the 2015 Legislature choosing to allow a 35% state tax credit to expire. Duke again faced criticism from solar advocates in the state for its ambivalent position on the solar policies.
However, the utility told Utility Dive in exclusive interviews in the past year that a broader, more comprehensive discussion over solar, the grid and the utility's future role needs to occur instead of localized battles over solar policies.