Solar news in the southeastern U.S.

As we come out of the haze that is Covid, let’s take a look at some solar news in Florida and nearby states. There’s a lot going on when it comes to solar in the southeast. Here are a few snapshots of solar news in the southeastern U.S.

Florida Representative Introduces Bill Supporting Community Solar

Last month, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla, chairperson of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis introduced a bill called the “Community Solar Consumer Choice Act.” Showcasing the bill on Earth Day, 2021, Rep. Castor hopes to “expand a Department of Energy program that encourages community solar projects across the nation and increases accessibility to energy produced by lower-cost solar power.”

The bill would allow more people access to cheaper, cleaner solar power over the electricity their utilities produce. Said Castor, “Local solar is a winning plan – it saves consumers money, creates jobs, and reduces harmful emissions. By expanding our clean electric grid and maximizing local solar and storage, we can reduce energy costs by $88 billion and create 2 million jobs by 2050.” Read more on this from the Florida Daily.

There were also other bills that support solar energy at the 2021 Florida legislative session, including a bill that would make Florida 100% renewable energy-based by 2050; a group of bills to help Florida schools go solar, and an energy relief bill. You can learn more about those here.

Duke takes heat on Carolinas Gas Plans

NC WARN and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal challenge to Duke Energy’s plan to “build scores of gas-fired power plants” even while sitting on huge amounts of excess energy. They accused Duke of lagging on cheaper, cleaner renewable power and clashing against global climate goals, noting that it is cheaper to add battery storage to existing solar farms than to follow their plan to build 50 plus fracked-gas units and continue to burn coal. The challenge, filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission, also accused Duke of providing misleading information to the Commission. Vote Solar’s regulatory manager for the Southeast, Tyler Fitch, spoke out against the utility’s plans, saying they would “add an unnecessary cost to customers of $4.8 billion.” You can read the challenge here.

Duke Energy Florida Agrees to Protect Vulnerable Customers

Negotiations with Vote Solar, The CLEO Institute, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy led to Duke Energy agreeing to offer help to vulnerable customers, many of whom are still suffering effects from the Covid-19 pandemic. Among the provisions of the agreement, Duke wouldn’t disconnect power due to nonpayment on days where the heat index is forecasted at 105 degrees or during threats of hurricanes or tropical storms. While other states have protections in place regarding power shut-offs during extreme temperatures, in Florida it’s up to the utilities to voluntarily adopt them.

“Nobody should be put in harm’s way because of an unaffordable utility bill. We thank Duke Energy for putting these protections in place and hope other utilities will do the same,” said Katie Chiles Ottenweller, Vote Solar’s Southeast Director. Vote Solar reports that Duke alone has over 20,000 customers who are behind on their electric bills due to Covid-19 economic impacts. Additional measures, to be filed for Commission approval, will expand access to clean energy technologies that help lower electric bills for low-income customers. 

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