Roughly $1.25 billion. That’s how much Duke Energy customers will be overpaying for electricity over the next 10 to 15 years. We can thank North Carolina law — and Gov. Roy Cooper — for the higher bills that come with long-term solar energy contracts Duke has been forced to accept. That’s not only bad for Duke’s customers, it puts the utility at odds with a different state law that obligates Duke to seek the lowest-cost electricity and to maintain the reliability of the electric grid.
For nearly two years, Duke officials have warned about the root cause of the higher bills, which stems from North Carolina’s interpretation of a federal law known as PURPA. The law requires the utility to buy solar power at old, high rates even though costs for other types of energy have dropped significantly since the old rates were negotiated. States have considerable discretion with PURPA, and because of North Carolina’s very favorable interpretation, our state now has more PURPA contracts for solar power than any other state in the nation.
In April 2017, Kendal C. Bowman, Vice President Regulatory Affairs and Policy for North Carolina for Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress, characterized solar power growth under North Carolina’s generous interpretation of PURPA as “uncoordinated and unrestrained.” She told utility regulators they should be concerned about two adverse impacts.