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North Carolina has become the second largest solar market in the U.S., behind only California, thanks to a 1978 federal law that has provided a boon for solar developers in some states, but a nuisance to many power companies, including North Carolina’s top utility, Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), Reuters reports.
The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act requires utilities in many states to buy renewable power from small providers; the law had little effect as long as wind and solar technologies cost far more than power from fossil fuels, but those costs have fallen sharply in recent years, encouraging a surge of renewable power projects from developers eyeing legally mandated contracts with utilities.
DUK, hoping to slow the solar expansion, is seeking approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission for shorter-term contracts with solar providers and lower prices for mandated power purchases under PURPA.
DUK reported in a state filing that it is paying $55-$85/MWh for the solar energy it must buy under PURPA; a typical solar contract in the U.S. is $35-$50/MWh.
In other states, utilities such as NorthWestern (NYSE:NWE) and Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A, BRK.B) Pacificorp have made similar pleas for relief in reaction to rising requests from solar and wind companies to connect projects to their grids.
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