Duke Prepares Distributed Solar Program in South Carolina

Duke Energy and other utilities in South Carolina are preparing a plan for developing distributed solar in the state on the heels of a net metering agreement announced last week. The utility plan will be delivered to the state public utilities commission in February, and after a few months of expected PUC deliberation, Duke will begin implementation “immediately,” according to Ryan Mosier, a spokesperson for the utility.

«The state has been very methodical and intentional in embracing solar – so much so, South Carolina may now be the model other states will want to follow.” — S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley

The net metering agreement provides that Duke and other utilities in the state will both charge and pay solar customers for energy at the same rate — currently about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour — over the next decade or longer. The agreement — developed by a consortium of utilities, co-ops and environmental, consumer and industrial groups — is based on a law signed by Gov. Nikki Haley in June, known as “A Balanced Path for Distributed Energy in South Carolina.”

Among provisions of the law apart from a mandate to reach a net metering agreement is a plan to foster solar adoption by educational and non-profit organizations in the state. Duke has already has contributed $2 million to Palmetto Clean Energy (PaCE), “a nonprofit organization that promotes the development of renewable energy resources.” Duke notes that “Through PaCE, we fund a pilot program that provides matching grants to K-12 schools and not-for-profit educational institutions interested in installing rooftop solar systems.”

The law also enables Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress in South Carolina to add up to three percent of the utilities’ peak demand, or about 150 MW of solar in the state. And the law provides for the PUC to establish a program for residential and commercial customers to lease solar facilities from non-utilities and utilities.

Mosier said, “The agreement is pretty unique and was crafted by groups in South Carolina for South Carolina.” At the time of his signing of the law, Gov. Haley said, “the state has been very methodical and intentional in embracing solar — so much so, South Carolina may now be the model other states will want to follow.”

Duke currently has only about 200 residential solar customers in South Carolina, but the utility’s two units rank fifth and tenth in the nation in terms of installed MW assets per customer (see table). Duke Energy Renewables, part of Duke Energy’s Commercial Businesses, began building and operating photovoltaic solar projects for commercial business customers in 2009. The company and now owns about 150 MW of generating capacity at 21 solar farms in various states. Duke Energy has invested more than $3 billion since 2007 to develop its U.S. commercial wind and solar power businesses.

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