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Energy & Environment

NC WARN Asks Supreme Court To Rule On Solar Deal With Church

NC WARN owns the solar panels it installed on Faith Community Church in Greensboro, and had been selling electricity to the church. But it has stopped the sales, after an order by regulators.
NC WARN
NC WARN owns the solar panels it installed on Faith Community Church in Greensboro, and had been selling electricity to the church. But it has stopped the sales, after an order by regulators.

Updated 7:10 p.m.
A North Carolina environmental group is asking the NC Supreme Court to decide whether it's legal for it to install solar panels on a church rooftop, then sell electricity to the church.  NC WARN is appealing a 2-1 ruling against it last month by the NC Court of Appeals.

NC WARN director Jim Warren says the case is about ending monopoly control over energy that he says hinders the growth of solar power.

"Members of the legislature and certainly a key dissenting judge on the Court of Appeals raised the question of whether the laws are both constitutional and in keeping with the state policies that promote the development of renewable energy," Warren said.

In 2014, NC WARN signed a deal to supply solar power to a Greensboro church. State regulators ruled against the nonprofit and sued, saying that violated the state's ban on third-party sales of electricity - a position upheld by lower courts.

NC WARN argues its arrangement with the church does not make it a public utility, subject to state regulation. 

The state's big electric utility, Duke Energy, is among the parties in the case, along with the North Carolina  Utilities Commission. Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless said a state law passed earlier this year, HB 589, clarified state law and settled the issue.

"HB 589 determined what is legal concerning electric sales and solar leasing in NC. Carrying on with this case seems like a waste of time and money," he said.