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Tag Archive: North Carolina

Heading South to Talk about Clean Energy

Eric Hurlocker, sustainable energy lawyerWe’re headed for Raleigh, to speak on February 6 at the Clean Energy Project Development in NC, VA, SC, & Georgia sessions sponsored by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association. This one day conference covers  the multiple legal issues involved in renewable energy law from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. The continuing legal education program (CLE) will focus on the mechanics of renewable energy for attorneys and business professionals by examining timely subjects in each of these four states.

As a regular attendee at these meetings, I know how valuable and interesting the speakers and information can be. I will bring our firm’s expertise in solar and other renewable development and energy regulation in the Mid-Atlantic and be ready to discuss the opportunities and challenges this fast growing industry presents. If you’d like to attend, just click this link.

If you have questions about solar, renewable or sustainable energy development in Virginia or other markets in the Mid-Atlantic, contact me or any of our energy lawyers. Or you can just buttonhole me in Raleigh. I’ll be around.

 

Report Shows Residential Electric Users Can Cut Costs with Solar

Customers in 80% of the country’s 50 largest cities would save money if they installed rooftop solar on their homes instead of buying all their electric power from local utilities. That’s from the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center’s Going Solar in America, a 27-page report by the N.C. State University center.

The study claims the perception that solar is too expensive for most homeowners is just plain wrong. Especially in states with high electricity rates – New York and California come to mind – residential solar power is prospering. Report authors Jim Kennerly and Autumn Proudlove say their data concludes consumers nationwide can benefit from solar even in relatively low-utility-rate states.

Like our clients, we are closely watching the solar power market as it matures and costs of entry and use decline. If you want to discuss this or any solar power law issue, please contact one of our utility rate and solar power lawyers.

New Natural Gas Pipeline Announcement

Just Announced – On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, Dominion announced a joint venture with Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources to build a $5 billion natural gas pipeline that would stretch from West Virginia through southwest Virginia down to southern North Carolina. The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would carry up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, a tremendous throughput. Pending regulatory approvals from both FERC and state regulators, construction of the pipeline could begin in mid-2016, going into service as early as late 2018.

 

This project comes on the heels of EQT Corp. and NextEra Energy’s announcement in June 2014 that they plan to construct a 330-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia into southern Virginia.  The Mountain Valley Pipeline, pending regulatory approvals, is expected to be put into service sometime during the fourth quarter of 2018 and would provide at least 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas transmission capacity.

 

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline would deliver natural gas to growing markets in Virginia and beyond, and would provide direct access to natural gas flowing from the Marcellus and Utica gas shale basins in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

 

GreeneHurlocker works with many clients operating in areas that may be impacted by the construction and operation of the proposed pipeline. Please contact one of our energy lawyers if you have questions about the regulatory approvals or any other issues relating to this new pipeline.

North Carolina Rule Could Spur or Cripple Solar Development

North Carolina Utilities Commission Considers Utility Power Purchase Agreement Rule Changes that Could Spur or Cripple Solar Development

Last week, the North Carolina Utilities Commission (“NCUC”) held hearings on policies that have the potential to either significantly expand opportunities for small-scale solar projects or severely restrict solar industry growth. Currently, North Carolina utilities are required to enter into 15-year power purchase agreements (“PPAs”) for new solar facilities of 5 MW or less.  The program is standardized so that the utility purchases the energy from these solar facilities at the standard offer service (“SOS”) rate, set by the NCUC. This PPA structure has benefited developers by providing a specific non-negotiable rate for solar plant output, lowering the upfront transactional costs and uncertainty for new solar projects. Solar industry supporters are urging the NCUC to expand the PPA parameters, while the utilities want to limit the scope of this program.

Solar Industry Proposal:

To help grow distributed solar infrastructure in North Carolina, solar industry advocates have asked the NCUC to expand the solar PPA program to provide for 20 year contracts at the SOS price for all plants up to 10 MW. If the developers’ proposals are adopted, they may soon find it easier – and less costly – to finance 5-10 MW projects, as well as smaller-scale projects that would be able to lock in 20-year contracts, rather than the current 15-year limit.

Utilities’ Proposal:

By contrast, North Carolina utilities – including Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress, and Dominion Power North Carolina – propose limiting the size of eligible facilities from 5 MW down to 100 kW. Solar advocates anticipate that if NCUC accepts the utilities’ proposal, this 98% reduction in the size of solar facilities eligible for standardized PPAs would cripple solar developers, subjecting future larger-scale projects to protracted negotiations with utilities, increasing the time and costs to break ground. The utilities raised concerns about (1) their ability to manage growth and balance their systems and (2) potential challenges the NCUC may face in managing solar growth while carrying out its regulatory charge ensure safe, reliable power at just and reasonable rates.

Conclusion:

A primary NCUC focus in these proceedings is the potential disruptive impacts, both positive and negative, increased development of distributed solar may have on North Carolina’s electricity systems. With such starkly opposite proposals from solar advocates and the utilities, the NCUC may instead take the position recommended by NCUC Public Staff – no change at all.

Whatever the outcome of these proceedings, which are anticipated to continue for several months, we will be keeping an eye on state-level solar policy developments, in North Carolina and elsewhere, as regulators are faced with balancing the benefits of increasing growth in the solar industry with the challenges such growth places on current industry norms and infrastructure.

If you have any questions about these North Carolina Utilities Commission proceedings, or want to discuss other industry or regulatory developments in energy law affecting your company, please contact one of our energy lawyers.