Why Solar Rebates are Needed in NC
Solar energy is a driving force behind North Carolina’s growing clean energy economy, which has advanced tremendously in the past decade. In large part, the growth that spurred North Carolina to second in the nation for installed solar is thus far attributed to the rapid deployment of utility-scale solar installations. Customer-sited solar, meanwhile, has also continued to grow in appeal and adoption rates among NC energy customers. However, because North Carolina operates in a highly-regulated monopoly electricity market where investor-owned utilities determine the lion’s share of what powers NC’s homes and businesses, financing incentives like rebates are needed to encourage consumer adoption of clean energy options like “rooftop” solar energy.
With this need in mind, NCSEA, our members, and Duke Energy began discussing the design of a solar rebate program in 2016. Last summer, these discussions reached fruition when comprehensive energy legislation, House Bill 589, became law, requiring Duke Energy to implement a new solar rebate program. Following HB 589’s passage, NCSEA and our partners worked in Fall 2017 and early 2018 with Duke Energy to co-design a program that would attract potential clean energy adopters waiting for the right time to install solar on their homes and businesses, a segment of the market that has been largely unsupported by consumer-friendly policies since the sunset of NC’s Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit at the end of 2015.
Timeline of Stakeholder Engagement and Program Approval
- January 22, 2018: Duke Energy filed its proposed solar rebate program plan with the NC Utilities Commission
- April 3, 2018: The NC Utilities Commission ruled on DukeEnergy’s proposalandprovided adopters of solar a 90-day window from the date of install of their qualifying solar PV systemto apply for a rebate under this program; solar adopters who installed after January 1, 2018 but before the date of the program launch were granted a 90-day windowfrom the date of the Commission’s April 3, 2018 Orderto applyfor a rebate
- April 13, 2018: Duke Energy filed its compliance documents, which stated, in pertinent part, that Duke did not anticipate the solar rebate program to launch until sometime in summer 2018
- April 17, 2018: NCSEA and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) filed a response in objection to the following details in Duke Energy's compliance filing:
- Duke’s proposed delayed and imprecise launch date;
- Duke’s proposed delayed and imprecise launch date would cause solar adopters who installed before the program launch date (but after January 1, 2018) to beprejudiced and such early adopters may even lose their opportunity for a rebate entirely; and
- The timing of Duke Energy’s proposed program, which undercut the statutory directed length and breadth of the solar rebate program.
- April 23, 2018: In response to our objections, Duke Energy stated that the rebate program will be implemented by July 9, 2018
- May 8, 2018: The NC Utilities Commission issued their final order in response to all intervenors’ comments adopting the July 9, 2018 deadline for launch date and also providing for a 90-day window from the program launch date for all solar adopters who installed between January 1, 2018 and the program launch date to timely submit a rebate application. Any adopters after the program launch date retain the same 90-day window to apply
- July 9, 2018:The Solar Rebate Program launched, and the online application portal opened
- July 26, 2018: Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Carolinas filed notice that capacity for non-residential and residential customers had been reached
- September 20, 2018: Order issued modifying the first year of the Solar Rebate Program
- Click here to read more about what is contained in the order
- January 1, 2019: The Solar Rebate Program re-opens for the 2019 calendar year
Overall, NCSEA is pleased and optimistic with the program approved by the Commission. If properly implemented by Duke Energy, we believe the rebate program will do much to open the rooftop solar market to residential, nonprofit, and business consumers. Below are key takeaways about the rebate program and the Commission’s ruling:
Projected Impacts on NC Installed Solar Cost, Deployment
- The rebate will be available for the first 10 kW of residential installations and the first 100 kW of non-residential installations.
- The rebate program represents a combined 20 MW of installed capacity per year for the next five years for Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC) and Duke Energy Progress (DEP). Each year, 10 MW will be reserved for residential consumers and 5MW will be reserved for non-profit organizations, which can include schools, places of worship, and so on.
- All rebate applications will be reviewed and processed by Duke Energy on a first-come, first-served basis as they arrive, and, according to Duke, customers can expect rebate checks to be delivered within 30-45 days of approval.
Rules, Guidelines, and Key Dates
- The date that the program launches will now be considered the installation date for the purpose of the 90-day application window for any customers who installed solar between January 1, 2018 and the program launch date. Any customer who installs solar after July 9, 2018 will have 90 days from their date of install to apply.
- The Commission did not modify the "first-come, first-served" basis for application processing set forth in their initial compliance filing. NCSEA is disappointed that the Commission did not make a modification to this provision.
- Duke made the Solar Rebate Program more prominently featured on their website and will be providing more frequent updates on rebate capacity moving forward. We recommend any solar adopters (or potential adopters) sign up for updates on the Duke website here.
Rates Per Customer Type
|Customer||Rebate Rate||Duke Energy Progress||Duke Energy Carolinas|
up to $6,000
up to $50,000
|No minimum||No minimum|
(schools, places of worship)
up to $75,000
NCSEA will continue to support our members and partners who are installers wishing to submit an application through the current iteration of the program and beyond. In the meantime, we encourage you to subscribe to the Solar Rebate Program on Duke's website to ensure that you receive the e-mail communications outlined above. As always, NCSEA will keep our members and partners up to date with the latest information on this and other House Bill 589 programs which impact clean energy consumers.
Click here for more background on the need for the rebates program, here for takeaways from the Commission’s September 20 order modifying the Solar Rebate Program, and check here frequently for our updated PV solar system registration numbers.