NCSEA Files Post-Hearing Brief in Friesian Solar Docket

In December 2019, NCSEA participated in an evidentiary hearing in the Friesian Solar docket in front of the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). In evidentiary hearings, it is expected that participants submit a post-hearing brief after the conclusion of the hearing. Earlier this week, NCSEA submitted a Post-Hearing Brief in the Application of Friesian Holdings, LLC (Friesian) for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN).

As a brief introduction, the Friesian case is significant because the proposed facility would trigger (and require) millions of dollars’ worth of grid updates in the southeastern part of North Carolina. These grid improvements would facilitate extensive solar development in that part of the state, which is currently facing a huge backlog in systems waiting to be interconnected due to the outdated and insufficient grid infrastructure. In both the hearing and the post-hearing brief, NCSEA makes the case that Friesian has complied with all necessary requirements; demonstrated that the facility is consistent with the public convenience; and demonstrated necessity for the project and should be granted a CPCN.

Grid updates of any kind have a cost and supporting a proposal that could increase costs for ratepayers is something NCSEA does not take lightly. However, NCSEA strongly believes that Friesian’s proposed facility would be integral in achieving our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals as part of Executive Order #80 (EO80). The updates would also allow for significant cost savings for new solar systems in the area interconnected after Friesian as they would not be required to make further grid updates due to the Friesian updates.

In the post-hearing brief, NCSEA lays out the reasons that the NCUC should grant Friesian a CPCN. Some of these include:

  • North Carolina’s emissions reduction goals: without the system upgrades triggered by Friesian, it is likely our state would fall dramatically behind in our emission reduction goals.
  • The southeastern part of the state needs significant grid improvements to support the interconnection of the amount of solar systems we will need to meet the goals laid out in the Clean Energy Plan.
  • In the evidentiary hearing, a witness for Friesian quantified the benefits of meeting various emissions goals by testifying that a 51 percent reduction in CO2 emissions could lead to health benefits of nearly $445 million.
  • Friesian has successfully demonstrated “need”: the merchant power generated from the Friesian facility would be sold to the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC). The clean power purchased from Friesian by NCEMC helps to fulfill NCEMC’s need to procure clean energy. Independent power producers, such as Friesian, are required to demonstrate “need” for a proposed system when applying for a merchant plant under a regulatory ruled called Rule R8-63. Here, the need is NCEMC’s contract showing a desire to procure clean energy. In executing a power purchase agreement with NCEMC, Friesian has demonstrated need.
  • Duke’s need for new generation is irrelevant: one of the objections to Friesian is that it does not satisfy the needs for new generation shown in Duke Energy Progress’ (DEP) integrated resource plan (IRP). NCSEA contends that the needs of DEP are irrelevant in this proceeding, because Friesian’s generation is being sold to NCEMC, not DEP.

NCSEA believes that the Friesian project is in the public interest and in the best interests of the State of North Carolina. Our team will continue to monitor this docket closely, and will update our members whenever we have further information from the NCUC.