North Carolinas renewables trade group says that Duke Energys recent public complaints about residential solar panel owners in the state being paid too much for their energy is scaring off potential purchasers of solar panels.
The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association told state regulators Monday that Charlotte-based Dukes pricing threats amount to an anticompetitive business practice and should be quashed. The Raleigh group says potential solar customers are reluctant to outfit their homes and businesses with solar arrays for fear that reimbursements from Duke may be cut in the future.
Local solar developers say that Duke, the nations largest electric utility, is so large that its statements can stifle markets and industries.
Duke Energy Corporations use of its market dominance to unfairly chill the limited market available to Dukes competitors is clearly bad for Dukes competitors business, including our business, said Dave Hollister, CEO of Raleigh-based Sundance Power Systems, in an affidavit filed with the N.C. Utilities Commission.
Duke has said that solar costs have plummeted in recent years, and subsidies should be reduced accordingly. The company hasnt said how much it wants to cut payments to residential owners of solar panels, but a company executive told lawmakers in January that cutting the payments is one of Dukes top legislative priorities.
The Utilities Commission sets utility rates in the state, including the amount that Duke pays to owners of solar panels for electricity those renewables put on the power grid.
The issue has to do with net metering, which lets homeowners use the solar energy they generate but requires Duke to buy surplus electricity from those homes. The Utilities Commission determines Dukes reimbursement rate.
The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association is asking the Utilities Commission to require Duke to honor all solar contracts signed and lock in on the solar reimbursements paid to households and businesses for at least 10 years. The group says such a guarantee would give customers the confidence to buy rooftop solar panels for their homes and offices.
The association says that residential solar panel owners are paid what theyre owed. The group wants the Utilities Commission to require Duke to back up the claim that its overpaying solar customers with research and analysis.
Staff writer John Murawski