On May 11, the North Carolina Supreme Court handed down a single-word decision — “Affirmed” — ending a two-year legal battle over control of solar panel installation in the state.
The suit involved solar panels that NC WARN, an environmental advocacy group, installed on the roof of Faith Community Church, a predominantly African-American church in Greensboro, in 2015. The organization paid $20,000 to install the panels and then sold the church electricity at the rate of five cents per kilowatt-hour. According to InsideClimate News, this rate is well below the 11 cents per kilowatt-hour that utility giant Duke Energy charges its customers.
The method that NC WARN used to finance the project, known as a third-party power purchase agreement, is banned in North Carolina and laid the groundwork for Duke Energy’s legal challenge. The state’s utilities commission ruled against NC WARN’s right to act as a utility by selling electricity to customers. After an appeal, the N.C. Supreme Court upheld this ruling.
“It’s very unfortunate that Duke Energy remains able to protect its monopoly against clean competition and to keep stifling the growth of cheaper solar power across North Carolina,” Jim Warren, executive director of NC WARN, told InsideClimate News. — By Elizabeth E. Payne