On March 16, 2015, North Carolina state representative John Szoka (R-Cumberland) introduced House Bill 245, the Energy Freedom Act. The legislation would open up North Carolina electricity markets to third-party sales of electricity. The legislation has the support of companies like Walmart, Lowe’s, Target, and Volvo. according to Forbes magazine.
At present, it is illegal for consumers, whether residential or commercial, to contract directly with third-party solar providers. All electricity supply agreements must go through the state’s enormously influential utility company, Duke Energy, which is vigorously opposed to the new bill and is mounting a strong lobbying campaign to defeat it.
For residential customers, the bill would allow homeowners to buy shares in community solar farms. Community solar is rapidly expanding in many states because it allows renters and people whose homes are not situated appropriately for solar power to participate in the renewable energy revolution.
According to NC Warn, a solar power activist group, the legislation, H245, could be signed into law as early as July 1 of this year if the legislature passes it during the current session. The group claims that, in addition to participation in community solar, the law would allow state residents to enter into “no money down” purchase and lease contracts for residential solar installations. Such contracts are extremely popular in many other states and are driving a huge increase in rooftop solar systems.
NC Warn says “no money down” arrangements have the following benefits:
- The installer pays for, owns and often maintains the rooftop or ground-mounted system on the customer’s property and sells solar power to the customer at a fixed rate that’s lower than power from the utility.
- As prices for utility power keep rising, the cost of the solar energy is locked in.
- The customer continues buying power from the grid at the regular utility price to supplement the solar system.
- At the end of the agreement period (usually 5 to 20 years) the customer can often purchase the system or renew the agreement.
If companies like Walmart and others are supporting the legislation, there is a possibility that the bill might get passed despite the opposition from Duke Energy. We will keep you informed about any updates about the fate of the Energy Freedom Act.