2023 was a big year for clean energy in the Carolinas. The Carolinas Clean Energy Business Association (CCEBA) engaged with our members, government officials and communities on key energy market issues. We are excited to report our year’s highlights and where our work made a difference in measurable legislative and regulatory progress toward transparent, competitive energy markets.
Throughout the year, we welcomed new members Hexagon Energy, Ecoplexus, Savion, Avangrid, and our newest board member, Treaty Oak Clean Energy. In April, CCEBA convened in Raleigh, North Carolina to discuss Carolinas energy updates; in October, we gathered for the first time in South Carolina for our annual member meeting in Charleston. Conversations ranged from the 2024 elections to anticipated policy changes, and we were especially excited to host South Carolina state senator Tom Davis for a conversation about his work on electricity market reform.
North Carolina Carbon Plan: The year opened with buzz around the North Carolina Carbon Plan; the first Order was released on December 30th 2022. The Order’s first iteration was a mixed bag for clean energy.. Most disappointing was Duke Energy’s success in placing arbitrary limits on clean energy even though economic models showed solar plus storage is by far the least expensive option for ratepayers.
Energy Storage Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): On the positive side, CCEBA successfully worked with Duke Energy to develop a customized power purchase agreement model for energy storage – perhaps the first of its kind in the monopoly-heavy Southeast. In competitive markets, energy storage is used much more economically because markets pay developers for storage’s true value. The CCEBA – Duke Energy storage PPA is a tool allowing some efficiency and certainty.
Southeast Monopolies Fail Reliability Test: The focus on uncertain resources and continued monopoly control was particularly frustrating as Duke Energy’s gas assets crashed during Winter Storm Elliott’s dangerous blackouts. Over half a million Carolinians were stranded without power last Christmas Eve as temperatures plummeted to record lows. In the weeks and months that followed, we saw that solar and renewable resources performed reliably while fossil fuels failed—further illuminating why solar and storage should comprise a larger slice of our resource portfolio. Despite the fact that gas assets failed, monopoly utilities used the storm to expand their reserve margins with plans for more natural gas.
In November of this year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) released their report on Winter Storm Elliot, confirming that gas generators were overwhelmingly to blame for blackouts. The report also indicated that areas without regulated electricity monopolies largely avoided blackouts. For more of our thoughts on the reports and recommendations, check out our article here.
Interconnection Queue Reform: This was also a hot topic this year, as grid connection requests continue to spike and timelines drag to five years or more. And while these wait times are already bad enough, what’s more alarming is that the interconnection queue consists primarily of clean energy resources. This backlog is restricting the growth necessary to meet state and national-level clean energy goals, address growing energy demand, and improve reliability and costs for Carolinas customers. We hope to see better efficiency from utilities in 2024.
Wholesale Competition: This past summer, The Brattle Group released its report on the South Carolina Electricity Market Reform Study championed by Senator Tom Davis. The study examined wholesale, resource planning and competitive investment, and retail reforms, and revealed an array of promising options with significant economic and reliability benefits for ratepayers. In particular, the study noted the importance of increasing regional cooperation and diversifying the generation pool. We applaud South Carolina for exploring its options and actively seeking informed decision making for energy market growth.
South Carolina Solar Study: Working with state and county officials, CCEBA has begun a study of the economic and agricultural impacts of solar development. The study will be released in the first quarter of 2024.
Solar Decommissioning: In North Carolina, we were excited to see House Bill 130 signed into law. This legislation provides important solar decommissioning guidelines which will help protect communities and solar businesses alike. The law provides key definitions and ownership requirements, including timelines, required plans, and financial assurances. CCEBA hopes that other states will follow North Carolina’s leadership and use HB 130 as a model for future solar action. For more details, see our article on the law here.
Land Use: CCEBA was proud to participate in the annual North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) conference to discuss benefits and concerns around clean energy and land use planning. We will continue to work with officials and stakeholders in both Carolinas on land use questions in the coming year.
Transmission: A bright spot in the North Carolina Carbon Plan /South Carolina Duke Energy IRP has been more cooperative, transparent transmission planning. A variety of business, community, and environmental stakeholders have worked closely with Duke Energy through the North Carolina Transmission Planning Collaborative (which will become the Carolinas Transmission Planning Collaborative (CTPC) in 2024). Transparent, proactive, planning means better outcomes for ratepayers and more opportunities for integration of new energy sources.
CCEBA looks forward to 2024 and continuing our work to ensure the Carolinas’ energy regulatory and legislative landscape provides market access benefitting energy entrepreneurs and ratepayers.