New Agreement with “Big Energy” Could Give South Carolinians More Access to Solar Energy

South Carolina Solar Energy
Solarize South Carolina is a program that makes it easy and affordable for residents to go solar

Solar energy use among South Carolina residents may increase significantly as a result of an agreement filed between the Public Service Commission of South Carolina and the largest electric utility in the U.S., Duke Energy.

In December 2014, South Carolina became the 44th state to institute net metering.  Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid.  As an example,  if a residential customer has a solar PV system on their roof that generates more electricity than they use during the day, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against the electricity the homeowner uses at night – and they are only billed for the “net” energy that they use.

As a result of the December net metering legislation, South Carolina utilities were mandated to file distributed energy resource (DER) programs outlining specific incentives to encourage solar growth among residential and small commercial customers. Both net metering methodology and DER plans are required under the landmark legislation,  the Distributed Energy Resource Program Act of 2014, signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley (R) in June of 2014.

The agreement signed yesterday enhances Duke Energy’s Distributed Energy Resource (DER) program, which were filed with the S.C. Public Service Commission in February. The proposed programs are designed to grow solar capacity in Duke Energy’s South Carolina service area from about 2 megawatts to about 110 megawatts.

Duke Energy, the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff, the Coastal Conservation League, the S.C. Solar Business Alliance, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Alliance for Solar Choice and others filed the agreement, which contains details on solar programs Duke Energy will offer starting later this year. The programs are subject to approval by the S.C. Public Service Commission.

This is all good news for residents of South Carolina.  But Duke Energy is only offering these programs as a result of the Distributed Energy Resource Program Act.  They continue to fight very hard to maintain their almost monopolistic control over energy generation in the Carolinas.

Key Provisions of the New Agreement

Shared solar:  Also known as  “community solar,” this program allows multiple customers to participate in a solar facility and receive credit in their monthly bill for the renewable energy produced from that facility. The customer receives a bill credit of approximately 6 cents per kilowatt-hour that is produced. The program is designed to be attractive to residential customers, such as apartment dwellers, who may not have the ability to install solar, as well as nonprofit organizations like churches, community centers and schools. Duke Energy will begin accepting applications in early 2016, once the solar facilities are built.

Solar rebates: To encourage rooftop solar, Duke Energy will offer rebates to residential customers and non-residential customers who install rooftop or small-scale solar on their property. Eligible residential and non-residential customers will receive $1 per watt (direct current) installed. The typical rooftop installation could earn rebates of about $5,000 under the program over a five-year period. Duke will begin taking applications for this program in late 2015.

Request for proposals: Later in the year, Duke Energy will issue a request for proposals (RFP) for more than 50 megawatts of large-scale solar facilities. As part of the RFP, Duke Energy will solicit purchase power agreements with 15-year terms and proposals to acquire projects.

Additional options for customers: In addition to the currently proposed programs, Duke Energy will provide more options for customers with limited financial resources to take advantage of solar energy. Details about those programs will be available in the months ahead, with the programs available in 2016.

 

Tracey Smith About Tracey Smith
Tracey is an accountant and entrepreneur with a passion for nature. This passion is what spurred her interest in renewable energy, and the rest is history as they say. Tracey is a principal in Energy Think Group, the publisher of Solar Thermal Magazine and Tek-Think. She is also the principal at Women's Financial Help Desk. She spends her free time in the outdoors with her horses and dogs. She loves to travel.

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