Utilities commission approves solar plus battery incentive program

CHARLOTTE — The North Carolina Utilities Commission approved Duke Energy’s Power Pair program, which provides financial incentives for customers to add rooftop solar and battery storage to their homes if they sign up to help provide the company data about their energy usage and cost savings.

The incentive provides $0.36/watt for solar panels up to a max capacity of 10kW and capped at $3,600 and $400/kWh for battery storage, limited to a maximum capacity of 13.5 kWh. The NCUC estimates the incentives would cover 13 percent of solar and battery installation costs, while current federal incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act could cover an additional 30 percent in tax credits.

The program is set to launch in May.

The program would accept a limited number of participants each year and they would be split into two cohorts, based on different net-metering rules, which allow customers to sell power to Duke Energy’s grid.

One cohort would be billed under the recently-approved time of usage net metering rates in order to provide accurate data on cost-savings through that program. The other cohort would be billed under the new bridge rate for solar customers and allow Duke Energy access to draw on their battery storage a limited number of times a year. This will provide the company data on how home batteries may be able to assist with energy storage and drawn upon during times of peak energy demands.

The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association calls the incentive program “a really good first step,” though the organization would like Duke Energy to provide more data on who participates. Part of NCSEA’s mission is to make solar energy more accessible middle and lower-income households, and given the high upfront cost of installing a solar and battery system, the organization wants to know who can participate. Estimates range from $30,000 to $53,000.

North Carolina has applied for a federal grant to improve solar access to low-income communities, and Matt Abele is hopeful this program, combined with that grant funding could make solar plus storage far more affordable.

The incentive will only be available to new solar customers. Customers who already have solar and install new battery storage will not qualify.

(WATCH: Why community solar projects struggle in North Carolina)

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.

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