Duke’s green energy tariff wins approval

North Carolina regulators have approved an experimental Duke Energy Carolinas program to let large customers offset their new energy needs with green power.

The Green Source Rider, approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission Thursday, responds to a growing appetite for solar and other renewable energy by big customers such as data centers.

For a premium price, Duke will match those customers with renewable energy from Duke itself or third-party suppliers. That energy will be in addition to the power generated to satisfy North Carolina’s green-energy law.

Only large commercial and industrial customers such as manufacturers, big-box retailers or college campuses will be eligible to take part. Duke said it designed the program to have no cost impact on other customers.

The program is part of a larger push by Duke to add commercial-scale solar power to its regulated business. Solar is enjoying a boom as prices drop. North Carolina is expected to rank fourth-highest in the nation for installed solar capacity by the end of 2013.

Duke Energy Renewables, an unregulated business that operates mostly outside the six-state regulated territory, is one of the nation’s largest wind developers and owns solar farms with a total capacity of about 100 megawatts.

Duke Carolinas placed a 1 million megawatt-hour annual cap on its new program. That’s about as much energy as a facility that needs 125 megawatts of new, round-the-clock power would use in a year.

The program could yield up to 700 megawatts of new solar if the entire quota were filled with N.C. projects, Rocky Mountain Institute energy expert Owen Smith, a former Duke employee, wrote in a blog post Thursday. That’s more than double the amount now in place.

The Utilities Commission’s Public Staff, which represents consumers, and the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association supported the program at a Monday meeting where it was discussed.

Source: Charlotte Observer


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