Duke Program Lets Big Users Buy Renewable Energy Elsewhere

Aug 21, 2019

Duke Energy is rolling out a new program that clears the way for large customers to buy solar or wind energy from independent power producers.

Enrollment for the Green Source Advantage program starts at 9 a.m. Oct. 1 for manufacturers, data centers, big box store chains and other large users. The program won final approval this month from the North Carolina Utilities Commission. 

"This is a flexible program that will help them meet their renewable energy or sustainability goals on their own terms," Duke North Carolina President Stephen De May said in a press release.  

It's similar to a pilot program Duke offered beginning in 2014 that let tech companies including Google and Cisco Systems buy renewable energy for their North Carolina facilities from third parties, with Duke as a sort of middle man.

The Green Source Advantage lets big customers negotiate the price and length of contracts directly with solar or wind power producers. Duke Energy then buys the power and delivers it to the customers over its transmission lines. Customers get a credit on their bills for electricity they bought under the third-party contracts.  

Duke says the program won't affect rates for residential customers.  

Program Has Limits 

Like the earlier pilot program, this one has limits. It's only available to customers who use at least 1 megawatt of power at a single site or 5 megawatts at multiple locations within a Duke service region, either eastern or western North Carolina. And the offer will run out when contracts with all customers total 600 megawatts.  

Duke's own current facilities in North Carolina have a maximum generating capacity of about 3,000 megawatts, Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless said.

The program was required by North Carolina's Competitive Energy Solutions Law in 2017. Under that law, some of that 600 megawatts is reserved for military installations (100 mw) and the University of North Carolina system (250 mw). If any of that capacity remains in three years, it becomes available to other large commercial users. 

Support For The Program

The Green Source Advantage program won support from some large potential customers, including Walmart, Wheeless said. And it has the backing of clean energy advocates. 

"We are cautiously optimistic that the recent order will allow for a competitive clean energy marketplace that benefits both ratepayers and commercial consumers," Ben Smith of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association said Wednesday in a statement. "If the Green Source Advantage program works as intended, there could be a robust market for clean energy between large consumers and clean energy companies without costing the average ratepayer any extra money."  

More information about the program is available on Duke Energy's website.