North Carolina bill would double state's current solar energy mandate to 0.4% of all retail electricity sold by 2018; advocates aim to push Duke Energy, Progress Energy on solar development as both outpace current targets

LOS ANGELES , March 30, 2011 () – A new bill introduced in North Carolina’s General Assembly on Monday would double the state’s solar energy mandate to 0.4% of all retail electricity sold by utilities by 2018, reported The Charlotte Observer on March 30.

Solar power advocates hope to push Duke Energy Holding Corp. and Progress Energy Inc. to go beyond the current targets. Both North Carolina-based utilities have exceeded the 2011 targets and are expected to pass the 2016 targets soon.

Under a North Carolina law passed in 2007, 12.5% of retail electricity demand must be met by renewables and conservation programs by 2021, with individual targets for solar and biomass resources, the Observer reported.

So far, solar power has been the renewable energy resource most successfully developed in North Carolina.

The state’s utilities say they won’t support a legislative proposal that seeks to change the rules that took months of sensitive negotiations to establish. Both Duke Energy and Progress Energy also oppose a bill introduced recently that would repeal the state’s 2007 energy law, reported the Observer.

That legislation has pushed development of nearly 60 megawatts (MW) of solar power in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, a Raleigh-based trade group. Twenty industrial-scale projects that generate 1-2 MW provide 75% of the electricity.

The state’s energy policy permits utilities to recover their costs for renewables and conservation efforts by raising customer rates. However, the price of solar has dropped by 50% in recent years, say solar advocates, the Observer reported.

Duke Energy will install solar panels on customers’ home under its 8.5 MW household rooftop program, essentially creating mini power plants in neighborhoods. It also buys electricity from a 15.5 MW solar farm run by SunEdison in Davidson County.

Under a program approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission in November, Progress pays its customers up to US$10,000 to install rooftop solar panels on their homes, reported the Observer.

Solar photovoltaic panels are twice as expensive to build as coal-burning power plants, nuclear power plants and geothermal installations, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The primary source of this article is The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 30, 2011.

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