Viewpoint

Eliminate Duke’s grip on renewables

Coker
Coker

Duke Energy has asked the N.C. Utilities Commission to fine a small nonprofit group, NC WARN, $1,000 per day for selling solar energy to a church in Greensboro. The irony and hypocrisy are thicker than the sludge in a Duke Energy coal ash pond.

It is hard to imagine something more directly opposed to conservative principles than a state-mandated monopoly on electricity. It is equally hard to imagine any North Carolinian wanting to squash a church’s renewable energy project.

So here is a challenge to our governor and legislature: If you are principled people, get rid of laws that give Duke Energy a monopoly position over renewables and open the state to competition.

It was only a few weeks ago that Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Duke Energy employee, signed the bill that will eliminate state subsidies for alternative energy. The rationale was that clean energy could compete in the marketplace on its own. That argument might have teeth if there were actually competition.

But there isn’t. North Carolina is one of only four states with a law prohibiting third parties from selling electricity.

Somehow we’ve been lured into a direction not in the best interests of North Carolinians. How could this happen?

There are three reasons. First, the fossil fuel economy is driving extreme wealth for a very few people, mostly outside our state. Second, those very few people are bankrolling a national effort to promote fossil fuel monopolies and squash renewables. Third, we’ve allowed the largest and most powerful energy utility in the country to spring up in our own backyard.

If N.C. conservatives are driven by conservatism, then getting rid of a state monopoly on renewables should be a no-brainer. If liberals are concerned with environmental protection, then getting rid of a state energy monopoly over renewables should also be a no-brainer.

The N.C. Utilities Commission should side with Faith Community Church and NC WARN and allow third party sales of renewable electricity. To share your thoughts with the Utilities Commission, send an email to ‘statements@ncuc.net’ and refer to ‘Docket SP-100 Sub 31’.

Regardless of its decision, the core problem is the law. Monopolies have no place in a democratic society, particularly when they are structural barriers to progress.

Coker (jcoker@elon.edu) is an associate professor of biology and director of the core curriculum at Elon University.

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