- Controversy and public protests erupted at the recent North Carolina Utilities Commission meeting over proposals backed by dominant IOUs Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress, and Dominion Power North Carolina. They included plans to reduce the state’s standard power purchase agreement (PPA) for solar projects from 15 years to 10 years, and to reduce the size of qualifying solar projects from 5 megawatts to 100 kilowatts.
- The utilities argue the changes would send more efficient price signals to solar developers and protect ratepayers from over-paying for solar energy-generated electricity, without imposing direct harms on solar developers. But solar developers say their experiences negotiating PPAs for projects bigger than 5 megawatts has shown the size and contract duration reductions will slow North Carolina’s solar growth.
- Duke VP Kendall Bowman denied it is difficult to get PPAs for bigger projects and said NC now has three projects larger than 5 megawatts online and another in development. Two of the three are 20 megawatt projects built by Apple for its data centers and the third is a 17.3 megawatt project built by SunEdison, so none won PPAs from Duke without corporate backing.
Antipathy toward Duke for its failure to support North Carolina solar prompted watchdog group NC WARN to release a satirical video suggesting the utility is “committed to keeping solar out of North Carolina.”
NC WARN Executive Director Jim Warren told the protestors his organization would not “let Duke Energy kill this great solar industry in North Carolina.”
Duke representatives told the commission that since North Carolina solar is the fourth fastest growing U.S. solar market, the supports put in place in North Carolina when solar was "a fledgling industry" are no longer necessary.