You can't play if they won't throw you the ball:
Independent solar companies say they can’t even get in the door to negotiate with the Charlotte energy giant. “It’s not difficult to do a deal with them,” says Richard Harkrader of Carolina Solar Energy in Durham. “It’s impossible.”
In Charlotte, Optima Engineering founder Keith Pehl says all 17 of the independent commercial solar projects his company brought to Duke Energy in the past two years foundered on failed power-purchase negotiations. Pehl contends Duke’s approach is to control the local market and refuse to pay competitive prices for power from developers and building owners.
I thought we were past this type of behavior, but I was wrong. If you recall from some of my earliest diaries here, I was deeply concerned about the limitations Duke Energy had placed on its net-metering program, such as limiting the size of projects and the total number of residences (.02% of baseload) that could sign up. It appears they are still thinking along those lines:
In 2007, the N.C. General Assembly adopted the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. It requires utilities to produce a specific percentage of the power they sell from solar and other alternative sources. One of the avowed aims was to encourage renewable-energy businesses in the state.
The industry’s development, however, is dependent on power-purchase agreements with utilities.
Duke did one big purchase deal with an out-of-of state solar firm and then used a few N.C. companies as installers for its company-owned distributed-energy projects. It’s buying a quarter of its renewable solar credits from outside the state. Little of Duke’s solar spending is going to N.C. companies.
“Duke is choosing to comply in a way that doesn’t happen to encourage folks outside of Duke Energy,” says Elizabeth Ouzts, Environment North Carolina state director and co-author of a new report on potential solar jobs in the state.
There is momentum building in the private sector to harnass renewable energy, and Duke Energy's efforts to monopolize and control, if left unchecked by regulators, could kill this movement in its infancy. We can't let that happen, folks.