Freeze solar net-metering terms, advocates ask

02/24/2014 7:47 PM

02/24/2014 7:47 PM

Renewable energy advocates struck back Monday at Duke Energy’s hope to cut the rate it pays for electricity from rooftop solar panels.

Duke pays solar “net-metering” customers the average residential retail cost of electricity, about 11 cents a kilowatt-hour. It wants to cut the payments to 5 to 7 cents, about what it pays for electricity from large solar farms.

The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association asked the N.C. Utilities Commission to make Duke guarantee the current terms to solar customers for 10 years from the time panels are installed.

Solar installers say Duke’s talk of lowering its payments – it has not formally asked regulators for a change – has had a chilling impact on their industry.

North Carolina’s 35 percent tax credit for solar projects expires at the end of 2015, adding to uncertainty among potential customers, installers say.

Duke says customers who don’t own solar panels subsidize the costs of grid infrastructure that solar owners need only some of the time.

“We have expressed concern that under the full retail credit we are giving, we are overpaying and would like to see a change to pay what that solar energy is really worth,” spokesman Randy Wheeless said.

That debate, which advocates see as an attack on the solar industry by utilities, is also underway in other states.

About 1,300 North Carolina homes have rooftop solar panels, Duke says.

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