SELC, faith groups keep pushing for solar access in N.C.

By installing solar, congregations at these three North Carolina faith organizations have led the way in committing to a clean energy future. The installation locations are, from left to right, Asheville's First Congregational United Church of Christ, Charlotte's Myers Park Baptist, and the Montreat Conference Center east of Asheville. (© Interfaith Power and Light)

As the North Carolina Court of Appeals considers a Greensboro church’s use of a popular solar financing method, SELC and faith groups from across the state continue to support the call for greater access to affordable clean energy.

This week, SELC weighed in on behalf of a number of North Carolina faith organizations supporting the option of partnering with other nonprofits or private companies to finance the up-front costs of installing solar. Even as the price of solar drops, these upfront costs often pose a barrier to the many benefits of solar for nonprofits, like churches and other congregations, and for low- or moderate-income families. A financing arrangement called a power purchase agreement provides an elegant solution. In these arrangements, the solar-power system is installed for little or no money down. The customer pays for the system over time based on its output. This kind of financing arrangement has the added benefit of allowing churches, other houses of worship, and nonprofits to benefit from tax credits for solar that are otherwise unavailable for tax-exempt organizations.

The case now on appeal first appeared before the North Carolina Utilities Commission and involved just such a power purchase agreement, established between NC WARN and Greensboro’s Faith Community Church. NC WARN sought a declaratory ruling from the commission that the arrangement was allowed.  Duke Energy challenged the agreement as violating their monopoly territory rights. The commission ultimately ruled against NC WARN and the church. The North Carolina Court of Appeals is expected to review the decision on appeal and consider the case in the coming months.

SELC represented NC Interfaith Power and Light, North Carolina Council of Churches, GreenFaith, the Christian Coalition of America, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, and Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina in the recent friend of the court brief.

As Susannah Tuttle, director of NC Interfaith Power & Light, explains:

“Every faith tradition has a mandate within sacred texts to care for creation. Clean, renewable, solar energy is a critical component of creation care in the 21st Century.”  

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