NC Students tell Duke to stop blocking solar

by Perry Wheeler

April 9, 2015

Last night, over 20 NC State students interrupted Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good as she gave a Leading with Energy speech on campus. The students unfurled a banner that read Duke Energy: Leading with dirty energy, blocking access to renewables and performed a mic check in the auditorium. Check out the video below.

The protest called attention to Dukes opposition to North Carolina bill HB 245, the Energy Freedom Act, which would open up North Carolina electricity markets to third party sales of electricity, meaning renewable energy companies could offer businesses, schools and residential customers long-term contracts for solar without the upfront costs of purchasing the panels.

Duke is opposed to the Energy Freedom Act because it will jeopardize their monopoly in the state and reduce their profits. The Republican-sponsored bill has received widespread support in North Carolina, ranging from Tea Party members to environmentalists. The notion of energy democracy and solar choice is resonating with more and more people across the country.

Hannah Frank, one of the student organizers of the protest, commented, It is critical to our futures and the health of future generations that we demand that companies like Duke Energy allow us the freedom to choose and encourage the growth of clean and renewable sources.

NC protester 2

Dukes opposition to distributed rooftop solar is well documented. Their standard gameplan is to:

  1. Kill or weaken third-party sales legislation in states they operate in
  2. Reduce the amount of money people with solar arrays receive for selling their excess solar power back to the grid — a process called net metering
  3. Work with big money allies like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Koch brothers to weaken renewable energy policies and incentives.

Despite some attention-grabbing headlines on solar efforts generated by their PR machine, Dukes renewable energy capacity will be a measly 4 percent in the next 15 years (its currently 1 percent).

Duke has donated significant amounts of money to North Carolina legislators. They are clearly looking to buy politicians votes when it comes to solar choice and energy freedom. Just last week, they were called out in a Florida Center for Investigative Reporting piece on utilities blocking solar power. It is becoming increasingly important for individuals to make their voices heard to break the dirty energy monopoly.

NC protester 3

Ishan Raval, the student organizer that led the mic check, added, There should be no more delay in phasing almost completely to renewables. If we dont stop burning fossil fuels immediately we will be facing dire consequences.

Kudos to the students at NC State for working to show that leading with energy means allowing access to solar, not propping up the outdated fossil fuel industry. Lynn Good took a moment to acknowledge the action during her remarks saying, I understand and appreciate their passion and energy I have that same passion about energy and the community. And I want to do the right thing.

If you want to do the right thing, Lynn, its pretty simple – stop blocking access to solar energy.

Watch the entire NC State protest here.

Perry Wheeler

By Perry Wheeler

Perry Wheeler is a senior communications specialist at Greenpeace USA.

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