Charlotte Community Leaders Tell Duke Energy: Don’t Block Rooftop Solar

Media release - January 27, 2014
CHARLOTTE, NC, January 27, 2014 — Leaders from a diverse array of Charlotte’s communities expressed their support for rooftop solar energy this morning in response to Duke Energy’s recently announced plan to make it more expensive for homes and businesses to install solar panels.

The speakers praised the benefits of rooftop solar, including lowering electricity bills, creating jobs, and bringing clean air to Charlotte. Gathered at a press conference outside of Duke’s headquarters, they asked the utility to provide more rooftop solar energy, not less.

“After a series of rate hikes to pay for Duke’s coal and gas plants, our community wants a power source that will lower our bills, and rooftop solar energy will do that” said Hector Vaca, Charlotte Director of Action NC. “Duke should do everything in its power to make it easier for our community to go solar, not harder.”

Solar energy is booming in North Carolina, but its growth is threatened by Duke Energy’s plan to attack a policy called net metering, which requires the utility to offer credit to customers with rooftop solar panels for any extra electricity that they send back to the grid, like rollover minutes on a cell phone bill. Duke said last week that it will ask the North Carolina Utilities Commission to reduce the payment it makes to net metering customers. [1]

Duke claims that net metering would drive up rates for non-solar customers, but studies show that distributed solar power benefits all customers by avoiding the need for Duke to invest in costly gas plants, nuclear plants, and power lines. [2] Duke has passed such expenditures to its customers in rate hikes in three of the past four years.

“Duke should join its customers in the 21st century by supporting rooftop solar energy, not attacking it just to protect its monopoly,” said Charlotte City Councilmember John Autry.

Executives at Duke, such as former CEO Jim Rogers, and other utilities have acknowledged that rooftop solar energy poses a threat to their business model. [3]

Investor-owned utilities around the country are pursuing similar attacks, and are coordinating their efforts under the guise of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that lets corporations ghostwrite laws for right-wing state legislators. [4]

ALEC has also attempted to pass Voter ID laws that would disproportionately impact people of color, and speakers representing those communities called on Duke to withdraw its membership in ALEC on those grounds.

“ALEC has already attacked the voting rights of people of color in North Carolina, and now it and Duke are attacking rooftop solar power, a technology that holds great promise for North Carolina’s poor communities who bear the greatest burden rate hikes and air pollution,” said Rev. Kojo Nantambu, Charlotte NAACP President.

North Carolina ranked second in the nation in solar growth in 2013 [5], behind only California. At the end of 2012, 137 solar companies employed 1,400 people in NC – a number that has likely increased during solar’s record 2013 year. [6]

“Solar has been great for North Carolina’s economy. It has the potential to create hundreds of local jobs that can’t be outsourced to China,” said Charlotte Organizer Evonne Tisdale with the Center for Community Change.

NOTES:

[1] http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2014-01-24/duke-energy-wants-to-pay-less-for-nc-rooftop-solar

[2] http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/blog/power_city/2013/10/study-solar-benefits-outweigh-costs.html?page

[3] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-24/nrg-skirts-utilities-taking-solar-panels-to-u-s-rooftop.html

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/alec-freerider-homeowners-assault-clean-energy

[5] http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2014/01/09/nc-rises-to-no-2-in-solar-installations.html

[6] http://www.seia.org/state-solar-policy/north-carolina