Why is Duke Energy keeping solar contracts a mystery?

Why is Duke Energy keeping solar contracts a mystery?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Duke Energy Corp. has signed power-purchase agreements with nine solar developers who won contracts through North Carolina’s new competitive bidding process, but the company declines to say who the winning bidders are.

The administrator for the competitive bidding process for Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress has just filed its final report to N.C. regulators on the results of the first tranche of bids. The report notes that just 13 contracts for about 550 megawatts worth of projects were actually signed by the utilities. That is down from an April announcement that 14 projects totaling about 602 megawatts qualified for contracts.

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But the public version of the report contains no information about who won the bids or what solar companies the Duke (NYSE: DUK) utilities signed contracts with.

The contracts are paid for by the 4.2 million N.C. and S.C. customers at the Duke utilities. And the identity of all solar companies the utilities have bought power from have always been public in the past. But Duke contends regulations associated with the competitive bidding process mandated by the General Assembly in 2017 prevent it from disclosing to the public who its customers are paying for power.

There is nothing in the 2017 law that requires this information to be confidential. And Duke has indicated in the past that, while the information was confidential during the bidding process and the contract negotiations, it was expected to be public once the contracts were signed.

But now Duke contends that a a single sentence in a nine-page order issued last year by the N.C. Utilities Commission prohibits it from disclosing who it is purchasing power from.

Read the full story for perspective on how the situation might play out and details on several contracts CBJ has been able to confirm.