South Carolina Ruling on Duke Interconnection Proposal Protects Consumers and Preserves Fair Grid Access

Originally published in UtilityDive 11/13/18

by Sara Baldwin Auck, IREC Regulatory Director

 Like many states, South Carolina has experienced significant growth in solar energy and distributed energy resources (DERs) over the past few years – now with over 500 Megawatts of solar installed as of Q2 2018, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Generating over $843 million in solar investments, this economic development trend is one that many in the state hope will continue. Yet, as growth continues, so too have some of the challenges surrounding fair and transparent access to the grid.

Recently, IREC helped to shape and inform South Carolina policy that would allow eligible DER projects to bid into a program in neighboring North Carolina without unduly impacting projects already connecting to the grid in South Carolina, and without imposing costs on South Carolina ratepayers (absent evidence that such costs are in the public interest). The issues before the South Carolina Public Service Commission (“Commission”) were unprecedented and warranted a close examination to avoid unintended consequences for South Carolina ratepayers and renewable energy developers.

In the last few months, the Commission was presented with a unique proposal from two of the state’s investor-owned utilities, Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC and Duke Energy Progress, LLC (collectively “Duke”). The proposal sought to waive portions of the state’s interconnection rules in order to allow projects built in South Carolina to participate in the North Carolina’s Competitive Procurement of Renewable Energy (CPRE) Program.

Yes, you read that correctly: Duke Energy was seeking to waive one state’s rules in order to allow projects to participate in a program initiated by a neighboring state – which inevitably opened a can of worms relating to fairness, rate prudency, and grid transparency.

The Commission’s recent Order adopted many of IREC’s recommendations on how to protect ratepayers and projects in South Carolina and set forth critical guidance on a few contentious issues. This Order set the stage for future solutions to address the major interconnection backlogs pervasive in Duke’s territory while also preserving a positive path forward for future DER growth in the Palmetto State.

Read the article in its entirety.

 

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