North Carolina reaffirmed that solar rooftop companies may not enter into contracts to supply electricity to homeowners or businesses in the state.
They can make direct sales of solar equipment or lease the equipment to customers, but not sell electricity.
A non-profit group installed and owned solar panels on a church in Greensboro and entered into a power purchase agreement to sell electricity to the church for 5¢ a kilowatt hour. The state supreme court in May upheld decisions by the court of appeals and by the North Carolina Public Utilities Commission that the group was violating a state law that bars anyone other than the local utility with a monopoly over the service territory from making retail sales of electricity.
The non-profit group — NC WARN (North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network) — entered into the contract with the church as a test case and asked the Public Utilities Commission for a declaratory order. It planned to contribute the rooftop system to the church after resolution of the case.
The appeals court said the dispute was over whether NC WARN is producing electricity “for the public,” therefore making it a “public utility.”
The group argued that the arrangement was a private sale with a single party. The appeals court disagreed. It said since the group planned to enter into the same arrangements with other churches and non-profit entities if it won, it is serving the public. A unanimous supreme court upheld the appeals court decision without comment.
North Carolina is one of nine states that bars solar rooftop companies from entering into PPAs with customers, according to the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.
The case is State of North Carolina v. North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network. (For earlier coverage of a case in Iowa that concluded a rooftop solar company was not making retail sales of electricity on similar facts, see “A Solar Rooftop Company” in the August 2014 NewsWire.)