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Solar installers seek a delay in new rooftop solar rules for businesses and institutions

generic solar panels
David Boraks
Duke Energy has won approval to reduce the rates it pays to commercial solar customers who send electricity the grid. Installers want to delay the change.

Rooftop solar installers are asking state regulators to delay new rules and the implementation of lower payments for non-residential customers. They say Duke Energy hasn't provided adequate public notice of the changes that start next week.

Last month, state utility regulators gave Duke Energy the go-ahead to reduce payments to businesses, churches and schools that install rooftop solar panels and send electricity to the grid. The new "net metering" rules are scheduled to take effect Oct. 1 for new installations in the company's Duke Energy Progress territory, including the Asheville area, Raleigh and eastern North Carolina.

Cassie Gavin of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association says its members don't have the information they need.

"We've heard from our members that these are significant changes that would be affecting solar installers across the state. There's still a lot of questions about the implementation and the rules and installers are still trying to understand," Gavin said.

Under the new rules, solar rates paid to customers will be lower and vary based on the time of day. Existing customers can keep their current plans for 10 years, then must switch to the lower rates.

In a filing with regulators Friday, the association said it wants the rules postponed until early 2024.

Duke Energy opposes any delay, spokesman Randy Wheeless said. He said the company sent information to installers last week and has offered to join webinars for the industry.

Wheeless said in an email: "The change was developed as part of a broad, collaborative process in N.C. and includes specific benefits for net metering customers. Duke Energy worked with NCSEA to address implementation questions and has communicated with solar installers in N.C. regarding the transition. We continue to make every effort to be transparent and flexible through the transition."

The company is seeking similar changes for commercial customers in central and western North Carolina, including Charlotte, Greensboro and Durham.

Duke also plans to reduce so-called net metering payments for residential customers starting Oct. 1. Regulators had delayed the residential rules and ordered Duke to develop an online calculator to help customers understand the financial effects of the change.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.
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