A comprehensive agreement supported by utilities, solar organizations and businesses, and environmental groups has been filed by the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina (PSCSC). Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress support the proposal which outlines a balanced plan for solar net metering in the state.
"Cooperation was a key element when South Carolina passed solar legislation in June. Many of those same groups participating in that process have ironed out an agreement that will enable solar development in the state," said Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy president -- South Carolina. "Our customers will participate in the growth of solar through the various incentives described in the settlement. We believe this is a positive step for South Carolina -- and the future of solar energy in our state."
In June 2014, Governor Nikki Haley signed the Distributed Energy Resource Program Act of 2014 -- a comprehensive law to help develop renewable energy in South Carolina that opens up the state for solar leasing with appropriate consumer protection regulations to make rooftop solar more accessible for homeowners. The law allows utilities to build solar in the state and recoup those costs as utilities do with other power plants. Further, it mandates that utilities craft programs for nonprofits and educational facilities to expand their solar presence.
The first step of the law is for South Carolina's utilities to propose a new net metering approach which will ensure that the costs and benefits of net metered generation are accurately quantified and a methodology established to ensure the utility recovers its cost of serving both net metering customers and all other customers.
The recently filed settlement proposes a methodology to calculate the value of solar generation, based on its known and quantifiable benefits and costs, and provides for direct incentives for distributed energy resources. The difference between the applicable retail rate and the value of net metered solar generation as computed under the methodology will be treated as a Distributed Energy Resource (DER) program net metering incentive and collected from customers system-wide by the utilities subject to statutory caps under the Distributed Energy Resource Program Act.
Under the settlement, net metering customers as of Dec. 31, 2020, will continue to be credited at the retail rate through Dec. 31, 2025. The parties to the settlement will revisit net metering in 2020. The new net metering tariffs approved in 2020 would apply to new customers who elect to net meter after January 1, 2021, and existing customers after December 31, 2025.
"This agreement allows existing and future net metering customers to have rate treatment certainty for up to 10 years. It also enables utilities to recover the cost of providing service to all customers while maintaining 24-hour service to solar and non-solar customers," said Gillespy.
If approved, Duke Energy will file DER programs within 60 days of the settlement, which will include incentives for residential and small commercial customer-generators.
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