Commercial, Regulation, Solar, Sourcing Renewables - January 4, 2017
Green group challenges Duke Energy monopoly
A North Carolina environmental group is taking a challenge to a long-standing state policy preventing the sale of electricity by parties other than a utility to a court of appeals.
The group, NC WARN, which has a history of targeting North Carolina-based Duke Energy on its environmental record, is asking a state appeals court to allow it to resume the sale of solar generation directly to a Greensboro, N.C., church., The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer recently reported. The state utility commission had in April 2016 sided with Duke Energy and the Public Staff, North Carolina's utility consumer advocacy agency, in rejecting the NC WARN's financing arrangement for the church.
The newspaper reported Dec. 27:
A lot is riding on the case, which could open up North Carolina's power market to private solar developers selling electricity directly to homeowners and businesses if NC WARN prevails.
The group's director, Jim Warren, told the newspaper that the Greensboro church case has the potential to set a precedent for consumer choice and for fuel choice.
"We absolutely believe we can win at the Court of Appeals," he told The News & Observer. "From day one, we have had a very strong legal argument."
Duke Energy, which has the support of both the North Carolina Utilities Commission and the Public Staff on the matter, questioned NC WARN's motives, writing: "The fact that NC WARN is only serving one customer does not conceal its greater ambition to serve an expanding customer base. This case represents NC WARN's attempt to enter the retail electricity market despite North Carolina's long-standing policy of having a regulated market to ensure reliability and affordability for the public."
The News & Observer reported that the case could last into 2018, because both NC WARN and Duke are expected appeal the decision to the state supreme court if they lose at the court of appeals.
Duke Energy serves more than 1.7 million U.S. customers across the Carolinas, through its Duke Energy Carolinas utility subsidiary, and in the Midwest and Florida.