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Duke Energy Stifling Local Solar Developers

Duke Energy’s policies in North Carolina are stifling the growth of the local solar industry there, according to a report in the Charlotte Business Journal.

According to the story, Duke Energy Carolinas has succeeded in controlling the local solar sector by refusing to pay competitive pricing on solar energy and building and operating its own solar projects.

The Journal reports that Duke rarely pays more than 12 cents a kilowatt-hour from independent solar projects. At that price, developers say it is not worth the effort to develop projects. Since Duke already has agreements in place for all the renewable energy credits it requires for the next four years, it can now afford to sit on the sidelines, if it chooses.

The recent complaints aren’t the first against Duke. In 2008, Environmental Leader reported on Wal-Mart’s complaint that Duke’s plan for a $100 million network of solar panels would choke off its own plans to develop a solar power project in the region. Grocery chain Kroger, industrial power consumers and solar advocacy groups also opposed that plan. Duke eventually acquiesced to pressure and reduced the scope of its project by half.

Duke, the third-largest CO2 emitter in the U.S., is trying to reduce its emissions by half of its 2006 baseline by 2030. The company is regulated locally by the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which was adopted by the state legislature in 2007 with the goal of fostering a local solar industry.

But Duke has invested most of its money in solar power outside of North Carolina, through a large power purchase agreement with an out-of-state supplier and by running its own company-owned projects.

Progress Energy Carolinas, meanwhile, is paying 18 cents per kilowatt-hour and does not plan to operate its own solar projects. It has agreed to purchase power from eight start-up projects.

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