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March 20, 2018

Clean-Energy Fans Predict Dark Days for NC Solar if Bill Passes

North Carolina has more solar capacity than any state in the country with the exception of California, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. But solar-energy advocates say it’s a power source that could “go dark” if a bill quickly advancing through the state Assembly becomes law.

Called the “Competitive Energy Solutions for NC” bill, House Bill 589 claims to integrate renewable energy into the existing power grid. However, Rita Leadem, assistant director of the group NC Warn, said consumers need to read between the lines.

“It opens the door for Duke Energy to attack net metering for rooftop solar customers,” she said, “including potentially adding fees or changing the rates that are paid to those customers for their electricity.”

Net metering credits solar customers for the excess electricity they produce and add to the power grid. The legislation would change that, and limit the building of new solar arrays to periods when the existing power grid can’t keep up with demand. The state Senate is now considering the bill.

Duke Energy, the state’s primary electricity provider, has claimed that solar farms are flooding the grid with power on sunny days. However, Leadem and others have said that instead of limiting solar growth, the state needs to update the power grid to keep up with newer, cleaner energy.

“When that resource is rapidly decreasing in price every year, ” Leadem said, “why would we want to limit that potential for the clean, renewable resource and the jobs that it could create for this state?”

North Carolina largely has benefited from a federal law passed in 1978 and known as the Public Utility Regulatory Policy, which required utilities to buy renewable power from independent producers if it costs no more than electricity from conventional power plants. This legislation would circumvent that law.

The bill’s text is online at ncleg.net.

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