Letter to Duke Energy: End Silence on Solar Rollbacks
by Monica Embrey
May 20, 2015
Today I have sent this open letter to Duke Energy's CEO Lynn Good about her company's recent silence on critical solar policies in North Carolina. This is an urgent situation that could have devastating impacts on our state's solar industry. Read some of the questions we have for Duke Energy.
© Jason Miczek / Greenpeace
Today I have sent this open letter to Duke Energy’s CEO Lynn Good about her company’s recent silence on critical solar policies in North Carolina. This is an urgent situation that could have devastating impacts on our state’s solar industry. Read some of the questions we have for Duke Energy below.
Dear CEO Lynn Good,
I am writing you about a contradiction that deeply concerns many North Carolinians. Our question today is simple: if Duke Energy is working towards clean and renewable energy sources, then why has your company remained silent as critical solar energy policies in North Carolina are at risk of being derailed?
While Duke Energy has gone to great lengths to say it supports renewable energy in the media, I have yet to see action from your company in support of critical solar policies that the North Carolina legislature is currently reviewing. Is your company actually behind these attacks and posing the biggest threat to undermine and stall solar in North Carolina?
Yesterday, the North Carolina Senate Commerce Committee passed changes to House Bill 332, Energy Policy Amendments, which would debilitate solar policies that have significantly benefited the state. The bill now moves to the Senate Finance Committee where it is poised to surface for vote today. HB 332 has two major provisions that would weaken our states renewable energy policies: it freezes our state renewable energy goals (RPS) and limits the size of solar farms that qualify for a standard rate. Does Duke Energy support or oppose this clear attempt to undermine the solar industry in North Carolina?
Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Freeze
First, the act would freeze North Carolinas Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (RPS) at 6% renewable power. The NC RPS is intended to increase use of renewable resources in the state by establishing the minimum amount of renewable energy that Duke Energy and other electricity providers in the state must sell in a given year. This legally-established renewable energy goal is currently set to gradually increase over time to meet the overall target of 12.5% renewable power by 2021. The RPS keeps the state on a cleaner path that provides us critical economic growth in the clean energy sectors, helps keep electricity affordable for all North Carolinians, and protects our air and water.
Duke Energy has repeatedly stated that it is in favor of the current RPS. Your own website even states, Public policies such as state-level renewable and clean energy standards, which have been enacted in the majority of states have served to jump-start deployment of critical technologies. These policies provide utilities and non-utility energy providers with the certainty necessary to make investments in new energy infrastructure.
North Carolinas RPS has spurred a whopping $6.3 billion in positive economic impacts to our state and saved ratepayers $162 million to date. Those savings would increase to $651 million by 2029 if we stay the course with the current RPS law. HB 332 would dramatically decrease North Carolina’s commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency, signaling to innovators and business leaders that North Carolina no longer welcomes their investments and jobs. There are at least 24,000 clean energy jobs currently in North Carolina. We cannot afford to risk jeopardizing the economic well-being of our state.
If Duke Energy is truly a company that champions solar and values the current RPS, the company needs to take immediate action to stop this harmful rollback that is working its way through the legislature. There has been no public indication since this bill was introduced that Duke Energy stands behind RPS in its current form. It is not enough to be vocal in support of solar when its convenient to do so. The solar energy you supposedly stand for is needed now more than ever. Will Duke Energy stand by silently as some legislators attempt to rollback this successful program?
Capping Standard Contracts for Solar Farms
Additionally, HB 332 would lower the size of solar farms that qualify for a standard contract, allowing solar to be installed and sold to Duke Energy at a fixed and fair rate approved by the NC Utilities Commission. Currently, facilities up to 5 megawatts qualify for a standard contract in the state to encourage streamlined investment and construction of solar projects. HB 332 would lower the size of qualifying facilities from 5 MW to a mere 100 KW, drastically reducing the incentive to build larger solar farms. If this change under HB 332 becomes law, the result will likely be significantly fewer solar projects in North Carolina.
Last fall, Duke Energy tried requesting this very same rollback to reduce the size of qualifying facilities for the standard contracts before the NC Utilities Commission–the regulatory body responsible for overseeing the companys operations. Duke Energys efforts were unsuccessful; the NC Utilities Commission reexamined and affirmed the 5 MW size as fair for qualifying facilities in January of this year. The change proposed in the legislature would effectively reverse that decision in favor of the exact numbers Duke Energy unsuccessfully lobbied the commission for last year.
Some reports indicate that Duke Energy is working to rollback current North Carolina solar policies that have successfully increased utility-scale solar. Knowing that Duke Energy lobbied for the exact same reduction from the Utilities Commission and it failed, it seems as though your companys efforts have simply moved to the legislature. What role is Duke Energy playing in lobbying legislators to lower the size of solar farms that qualify for a standard contract?
Solar Leadership is Needed
Duke Energy has poisoned our waterways with its toxic coal ash and, by remaining silent, is currently complicit with those legislators looking to roll back North Carolinas solar energy solutions. Under your leadership Duke Energy has branded itself as a clean energy company, championing the states progress on solar installations. This progress has only been made possible because of our states strong renewable energy laws, including the RPS and standard contract size for qualifying facilities. Duke Energys silence in the legislature seem to tell a different story.
CEO Good, you have an opportunity to take Duke Energy in a new direction. One critical step you can take is to lead the company to embrace solar by taking a public stance in support of our states solar policies. Your voice is needed at this crucial time to stand against the solar rollbacks in HB 332.