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Press release prepared by Southern Environmental Law Center
COLUMBIA, SC – Solar advocates and Duke Energy have reached an agreement that could offer Duke Energy’s future rooftop solar customers significant up-front savings to go solar, while enhancing grid reliability and setting new solar pricing signals to reduce utility costs for all customers. The deal, which is intended to implement South Carolina’s popular and bipartisan Energy Freedom Act, would offer Duke Energy’s future rooftop solar customers up-front savings in exchange for their participation in a program to help Duke meet energy needs during costly peak hours.
The deal struck between solar advocates and Duke Energy achieves the goals of keeping solar installations financially attractive to homeowners and solar companies while also providing the utility the tools it needs to help the grid work at peak efficiency. The “Solar Choice Net Metering” proposal still needs approval from the Public Service Commission. Associated approvals are also necessary from North Carolina.
“This agreement is a step into the future of clean energy for South Carolina,” said Lauren Bowen, leader of SELC’s Solar Power Initiative. “It recognizes the importance of the partnerships needed between utilities, solar companies, and homeowners to expand the solar economy while keeping the grid strong, resilient, and affordable.”
“If the proposal is approved, the owner of a typical 5KW residential solar system, taking full advantage of the options under Solar Choice Net Metering, could expect to receive significant up-front savings when going solar, when paired with a newly proposed Duke Energy solar plus smart thermostat program. In the case of solar panels that are leased, the money could be used so that homeowners could install a system with low or no out-of-pocket costs,” said Bowen.
Frugal solar-powered homeowners could further save money by reducing energy use or supplying energy to the grid during the year-round peak times of 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and in the winter hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. In this way, the solar customers, as a group, will reduce the cost to Duke Energy of providing service during these more expensive hours.
“This landmark agreement uses innovative pricing to create value for all customers while creating new ways for households to embrace clean energy resources and save on their monthly bills,” stated Lon Huber, Head of Rate Design and Strategic Solutions for Duke Energy. A new pricing structure under this agreement will allow Duke Energy to charge solar customers more for electricity during those peak times, similar to surge pricing on toll roads and for rideshare services. That structure not only encourages conservation during high demand, but also helps Duke better manage resources.
The agreement with Duke Energy was brokered by a partnership of clean-energy companies and organizations including Sunrun, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, Vote Solar, and the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Upstate Forever.
“We’re seeing extraordinary customer demand for rooftop solar, and the savings that come with it. Now, with Duke Energy’s collaboration on this innovative program, more South Carolinians will be able to reap the benefits of clean, affordable solar energy,” said Thad Culley, Senior Regional Director for Vote Solar.
“Solar Choice Net Metering is the next evolution of South Carolina’s successful solar programs,” said Peter Ledford, General Counsel and Director of Policy for NCSEA. “We’re confident this plan could work for not only South Carolina, but North Carolina too. Customers in the Tar Heel state would get expanded access to solar power under this program.”
Under the Energy Freedom Act, South Carolina utilities were required to lift the net energy metering cap on rooftop solar installations and revise net energy metering policies, but the act did not dictate how that should happen. “Net energy metering” allows solar customers to get bill credits for excess energy their panels put back onto the grid. The Solar Choice Net Metering program was created to meet the requirements of the Energy Freedom Act in a way that benefits all stakeholders.
"After years of stakeholder conversations, Sunrun is happy that all parties found a win-win approach to deliver energy choice to Duke customers,” said Sunrun’s Public Policy Director, Tyson Grinstead. Preserving net energy metering's critical structure and allowing Duke to respond to demand requirements will help all ratepayers."
North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) is the leading 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that drives public policy and market development for clean energy. NCSEA's work enables clean energy jobs, economic opportunities, and affordable energy options for all North Carolinians. Learn more about NCSEA, its mission, and vision at www.energync.org.
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental law organization. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org
Sunrun Inc. (Nasdaq: RUN) is the nation’s leading home solar, battery storage, and energy services company. Founded in 2007, Sunrun pioneered home solar service plans to make local clean energy more accessible to everyone for little to no upfront cost. Sunrun’s innovative home battery solution, Brightbox, brings families affordable, resilient, and reliable energy. The company can also manage and share stored solar energy from the batteries to provide benefits to households, utilities, and the electric grid while reducing our reliance on polluting energy sources. For more information, please visit www.sunrun.com.
About Vote Solar
Vote Solar’s mission is to make solar a mainstream energy resource across the U.S. Since 2002, Vote Solar has been working to lower solar costs and expand solar access. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Vote Solar advocates for state policies and programs needed to repower our electric grid with clean energy. Vote Solar works to remove regulatory barriers and implement key policies needed to bring solar to scale. VoteSolar.org
About Coastal Conservation League
The Coastal Conservation League is a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the coastal resources of South Carolina. Its mission is to protect the state’s natural landscapes, abundant wildlife, clean water, and quality of life. Since 1989, the Conservation League has carried out this mission by working with citizens, local government, and the state legislature. www.coastalconservationleague.org
About the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible energy choices to ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.
About Upstate Forever
Upstate Forever is a nonprofit conservation organization that protects critical lands, waters, and the unique character of Upstate South Carolina. Program focus areas include land protection in the Blue Ridge Escarpment, clean and abundant water, land use planning that reduces sprawl and creates a more equitable and livable community, and energy efficiency and renewable energy policies that decrease reliance on fossil fuels. www.upstateforever.org