Last week, Duke Energy announced an agreement with solar installers, environmental groups and renewable energy advocates that, if approved by regulators, will create long-term stability for the residential solar industry in South Carolina.
The deal will provide options for customers and allow Duke Energy to address increasing electric demand periods in the winter for the benefit of the company’s systems and customers in both North Carolina and South Carolina, according to Duke Energy.
The proposed plan – Solar Choice Net Metering – could be the next generation of net energy metering for the Carolinas, a billing process that credits small customers with rooftop solar arrays for excess electricity they generate and provide to Duke Energy via the grid.
Solar Choice Net Metering will include retail rates that vary based on the time of day and when utilities experience peak demand. It will also give customers the ability to install a smart thermostat with their solar panels and receive an incentive for the combination.
“This first-of-a-kind package completely modernizes the rooftop solar transaction,” said Lon Huber, Duke Energy’s vice president for rate design and strategic solutions. “This new arrangement not only recognizes the value of solar and the enabling energy grid, but it unlocks additional benefits for all customers by addressing when utilities experience peak demand across their systems in the Carolinas.”
Organizations participating in the effort include Vote Solar and North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association; the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Upstate Forever and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; and rooftop solar installer Sunrun. Each organization that is part of the agreement will continue to advance the proposal to other stakeholders and regulators.
The agreement builds on the goals of the South Carolina Energy Freedom Act (Act 62). The 2019 legislation represents an effort to develop the next steps for an energy policy in South Carolina that support the state’s commitment to solar energy development.
“Duke Energy deserves credit for its leadership in bringing stakeholders together, establishing trust through transparency, and embracing policy innovation,” said Thad Culley, senior regional director for Vote Solar. “I am hopeful that this collaborative approach will encourage more partnerships with Duke Energy as we try to navigate our way toward a cleaner, more resilient grid, while providing additional choices for South Carolina families.”
If approved by regulators, the company anticipates a transitional tariff to be available on June 1, 2021, to allow for a full transition into the new plan on or before January 1, 2022.