Competition in Solar Power Challenges Utilities

A nonprofit’s solar project on a church in Greensboro, N.C., is testing the state’s utility regulations, and Duke Energy has called for steep fines. The project “begins to wrestle and engage with the monopolistic nature of Duke Energy,” said Rev. Nelson Johnson.

NC WARN, an environmental justice group, funded the solar panels in June and began selling the electricity to the Faith Community Church at a reduced rate, contesting a state law declaring that only utilities can sell renewable energy. The group submitted their case to the North Carolina Utilities Commission for review. In November, Duke Energy called for the organization to be fined $1,000 per day, which NC WARN Executive Director Jim Warren says could exceed $120,000.

In Virginia, the State Corporation Commission rejected a proposal by Dominion Virginia Power to build a 20-megawatt solar farm stating the utility did not convince regulators that allowing it to develop the project — instead of hiring a third party — was the best deal for ratepayers. Regulators sided with solar advocates who argued that tapping into the competition of the market could lower the cost customers pay for renewable power. — By Eliza Laubach


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