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Duke Energy Convinces NC Court that Solar Panels on Church Rooftops are Against the Law

posted Jun 8, 2018, 4:13 AM by Rahni Jere Sumler   [ updated Jun 8, 2018, 4:14 AM ]
Reposted from Walter Einenkel, Daily Kos Staff at Daily Kos. 

North Carolina is a state that’s been profoundly affected by the undemocratic gerrymandering the Republican Party uses to consolidate their minority share of the American imagination. Back in November 2015, North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network (NC WARN), an advocacy group for environmental change, made a stand by trying to install solar paneling to the rooftop of a predominantly black church. 

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Roger Garbey and Andres Hernandez (L-R), from the Goldin Solar company, install a solar panel system on the roof of a home a day after the Trump administration announced it will impose duties of as much as 30 percent on solar equipment made abroad on January 23, 2018 in Palmetto Bay, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

PALMETTO BAY, FL - JANUARY 23:  Roger Garbey and Andres Hernandez (L-R), from the Goldin Solar company, install a solar panel system on the roof of a home a day after the Trump administration announced it will impose duties of as much as 30 percent on solar equipment made abroad on January 23, 2018 in Palmetto Bay, Florida. Daren Goldin the owner of the company said, 'the tariffs will be disruptive to the American solar industry and the jobs they create.' (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The challenge was to the state’s utility monopoly, and the big fossil fuel boys were out fighting to stop the possibility for a free market in energy. Inside Climate News reports that NC WARN has lost their appeal to the state’s highest court.

The utilities argue that electricity generated by customers or sold by third-party providers—in this case the environmental group that was selling power to the church—would upend their business model, leaving them with fewer customers who would then have to pay more for power. Often, when states in the region have changed the rules to expand access to rooftop solar, they have done so within a framework set by the utilities and with restrictions.

This appeal came after the North Carolina Utilities Commission fined NC WARN for offering considerably cheaper and cleaner energy than Duke Energy—the monopolistic energy provider in North Carolina—could. This was a violation of competition because Duke has paid for North Carolina to have laws against any competition. Just like Adam Smith wanted.

The key point in the case was that NC WARN was selling electricity on a kilowatt-hour basis, which regulators found was a violation of rules that Duke Energy has the exclusive right to sell electricity to end users in its territory.

Of course, there’s another angle here.

The country's No. 2 electricity company, the state's utilities regulator and other power companies say NC WARN is producing electricity "for the public," which would mean it's intruding on the protected territory of the publicly regulated monopoly utilities. NC WARN's lawyers contend they aren't selling to the public, only helping nonprofits save money with clean energy.

"NC WARN is not interested in selling power. NC WARN is engaged in an altruistic program designed to combat the climate crisis," the group's attorney, Matthew Quinn, told the court's seven justices.

If you need a refresher on Duke Energy’s track record with the environment, you can type “Duke Energy environmental violations” into a Google search and watch your computer melt. According to Inside Climate News, there are nine states with similar laws, and this case was one of the hopes in breaking the fossil fuel industry’s smothering of energy progress. Along with Trump’s new tariffs on solar energy that have stifled solar expansion projects and will likely wipe away tens of thousands of new solar industry jobs, the blood-red wave that stinks of sulfur and calls itself the Republican Party is doing its best to push against time and space.
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