In a significant move that will bring more solar to South Carolina, clean energy advocates have reached an agreement with Duke Energy Carolinas to extend the utility’s net metering program, which credits rooftop solar customers for excess power produced by their systems. The extension is scheduled to last until March 15, 2019.
SELC, on behalf of Coastal Conservation League and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), along with Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC, the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, and the Solar Business Alliance, submitted a petition to South Carolina’s Public Service Commission earlier this week, requesting to temporarily extend the utility’s net metering program. The extension allows more time for stakeholders to identify broader policy opportunities for the future of energy in South Carolina, with the goal of providing long-term solar programs and customer options in upstate South Carolina.
“The success of this program to date shows that solar is working for South Carolina families,” said Lauren Bowen, staff attorney for SELC. “Extending the timeline for Duke Energy Carolinas' net metering program gives more of its customers the ability to install solar as a way to manage their energy costs while collaborative discussions are underway.”
Earlier this summer, Duke Energy Carolinas met two percent of its retail peak demand with net-metered solar power, a threshold put in place by a law passed four years ago by the state legislature. At that point, the utility closed the program.
The extension would let customers in the Upstate continue participating in the popular rooftop solar program until the legislative issue can be addressed in 2019.
“Duke Energy Carolina’s net metering program has played a crucial role in reaching the state’s renewable energy goals,” said Eddy Moore, the Coastal Conservation League’s Energy and Climate Program Director. “The rapid expansion of rooftop solar put South Carolina residents to work, providing stable jobs to more than 3,000 workers across the state – jobs that are now in jeopardy due to program limits. Current laws allow utilities to change the rules for customer solar when it reaches two percent of the utility’s peak demand. Duke Energy Carolinas customers recently became the first to hit this threshold.”
In 2014, South Carolina enacted landmark legislation opening the door for solar growth across the state. As a result, the state has become one the fastest growing solar markets in the country. However, policies that have helped South Carolina’s rooftop solar industry flourish also include arbitrary limits on that growth by imposing low net metering requirements that utilities statewide are quickly approaching.
“Extending the benefits of net metering for Duke Energy Carolinas’ customers is welcome news, but it is really just an interim fix for the longer term need of continued access to clean and cost-effective renewable energy,” said Bryan Jacob, Solar Program Director for SACE. “Today’s agreement puts a spotlight on the fact that stakeholders have more work to do and that the legislature will need to take swift action in the upcoming session to approve a longer-term solution that supports the continued economic growth solar provides, as well as expanding energy choices for customers statewide.”