The North Carolina attorney general asked state regulators to postpone approval of Duke Energy Corp.'s proposed changes to rooftop solar net metering. (Docket E-2 Sub 1287)
The North Carolina Utilities Commission is set to consider a plan that would allow eligible customers of Duke subsidiaries Duke Energy Carolinas LLC and Duke Energy Progress LLC to receive up-front cash incentives for installing residential rooftop solar. The program would replace Duke's current solar rebate programs, which begin expiring at the end of 2022.
Attorney General Josh Stein's office asked regulators to consider Duke's proposal alongside its plans to meet goals set by a 2021 energy law, which the utilities must file by May 16.
In November 2021, Duke's subsidiaries reached an agreement with environmental advocates on net metering that aligned with North Carolina policy goals outlined in House Bill 951, including a 70% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and a net-zero emissions target by 2050. Duke's petition would allow for new net metering tariffs to go into effect for customers submitting applications on or after Jan. 1, 2023; create pricing and incentives for residential solar customers; contain rate design mechanisms to properly collect costs of grid infrastructure needed to serve solar customers; and include retail rates that vary based on time of day and when the utility experiences peak demand, Duke said in its November 2021 filing. The net metering tariffs would remain in place for 10 years.
"The (Attorney General's Office) is supportive of incentives for installing residential rooftop solar, but believes that the commission should postpone issuing an order concerning Duke's applications," Assistant Attorney General Tirrill Moore wrote in a March 15 letter to state regulators. "These dockets are closely connected to other dockets pending before the commission and may be impacted by analysis that has yet to be performed."
The commission should avoid either approving or rejecting the program until the proposed net metering tariffs have been further analyzed but should also act with enough time "to ensure a replacement solar rebate is implemented before the expiration of the current program," Moore wrote.
Duke's proposal includes an up-front rooftop solar incentive of 36 cents/Wdc. Customers who receive the incentive would be required to remain in the program for 25 years and enroll in a winter load control program, which would require participants to have all-electric homes or convert existing appliances to electric.
"Duke Energy believes it is important to move the net metering discussion forward and begin to build new solar programs that will help customers use energy more efficiently," Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless said March 18. "We feel our proposed agreement and filings do that."
About 24,000 Duke customers in North Carolina have private solar systems, the company said previously, compared to 6,000 in 2018. Duke represented about 40% of installed solar capacity in the Southeastern U.S. in 2020, according to an analysis by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and is expected to remain the region's leader.
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