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With funds left over, Duke Energy adds 1 more round of solar rebates

Workers install solar panels on a house in North Charlotte.
David Boraks
Workers install solar panels on a house in North Charlotte.

Duke Energy's five-year rooftop solar rebate program in North Carolina was supposed to end in July. But the utility says it will add one final application period in January.

The $62 million program was required by a 2017 state law. Since 2018, it has distributed about $45 million to 9,000 homeowners, businesses and nonprofit institutions, Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless said. But there's money left over because churches and nonprofits did not use all the money allocated to them, he said.

So Duke will open applications on Jan. 11, 2023, for a lottery that will distribute about $3 million in rebates that didn't get used.

If past experience is any guide, residential and business rebates will be oversubscribed. In past years, only about one-quarter of those who applied have gotten the rebates.

Homeowners can receive up to $4,000 and businesses can get up to $30,000.

Wheeless said the estimated $3 million in leftover rebate money will be split between Duke's two North Carolina Utilities, Duke Energy Carolinas in Charlotte and much of Western North Carolina and Duke Energy Progress in eastern North Carolina and the Asheville area.

That number could change depending on how much more is distributed by the end of the year to rebate lottery winners in July, he said.

Wheeless said the program has helped to increase the number of rooftop dollar installations statewide over the past five years.

"When we started this program, we had like 6,000 rooftop solar customers in North Carolina and now we've got 32,000," Wheeless said. "Not everybody got a rebate, but it accomplished what it set out to do, which was to spur rooftop solar in North Carolina."

At least for now, the end of the rebate program means federal tax credits are the only incentives available to North Carolinians who want to install solar. But Wheeless said Duke is considering other programs.

"Nothing has been decided on incentives in the future. But we do want to offer something to customers who wish to go solar," he said.

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David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including DavidsonNews.net and The Charlotte Observer.