Blue Ridge Energy electric cooperative has one of the worst solar energy policies of all electric utilities throughout the Southeast, a new interactive website launched by the Southern Environmental Law Center shows.
SELC’s “Rates of Solar” lists Blue Ridge among its solar “brakers” because of the co-op’s high monthly fee for owner-members who install solar energy on their home. The additional fee, beyond what non-solar residents already pay, is a minimum of nearly $29 per month on top of the regular $24 monthly fee paid by all residential members. The electric cooperative serves the North Carolina High Country, a largely rural area.
“The added fee that Blue Ridge charges members who want more clean energy and the freedom to invest in their own solar systems is punitive and discriminatory,” said Rory McIlmoil, Energy Savings Program Manager for Appalachian Voices. “That fee alone nearly doubles the cost of a typical solar system over its lifetime. No other electric co-op in the state has as bad of a solar policy as Blue Ridge, so it’s easy to see why they’re being called out for putting the brakes on solar in the High Country.”
Blue Ridge members who have looked into installing their own solar panels have expressed their frustration at the co-op’s policies, according to Appalachian Voices Outreach Coordinator Lauren Essick. “Members want to be able to afford solar, but because of Blue Ridge’s policies, it’s just not cost-effective for them, and they don’t understand why their co-op is making it harder.”
Members of Blue Ridge Energy and Appalachian Voices have created a petition to ask co-op management for better solar policies and to include co-op member-owners in the process of creating and changing solar policies. If you are a Blue Ridge Energy member and would like to sign the petition, please do so here.
According to SELC’s press release, the Rates of Solar website, provides simple, straightforward information about how utilities across the Southeast are treating customers with rooftop solar on their homes, highlighting more than 400 utility solar policies across SELC’s six -state region.
“We believe that everyone should have the ability to harvest the sun’s energy at a reasonable price—creating stronger, cleaner, and healthier communities for all,” said Lauren Bowen, SELC staff attorney. “This website provides one of the first comprehensive views of how solar customers are treated by utilities across the Southeast.”
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