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Court: Group Can't Charge Church For Power From Solar Panels


A divided North Carolina appeals court says a clean-energy advocacy group can't install solar panels on a church roof and charge for the electricity generated.

The state Court of Appeals panel split 2-1 Tuesday, with the majority ruling in favor of Duke Energy's legal monopoly to sell electricity to most of the state. The split means a state Supreme Court appeal is possible.

North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network appealed last year's decision by state regulators that the group was operating improperly as a public utility. The Durham nonprofit installed the solar array atop Faith Community Church in Greensboro, then charged about half Duke's rate for the electricity produced.

Judge Chris Dillon said in his dissent that the deal involved solar panels for a single customer, not a public utility requiring regulation.

Dillon also noted that the Utilities Commission, in ruling for Duke, reversed its own ruling in a previous, similar case, and he said third-party sales of solar energy are in line with the General Assembly’s declared policy "to encourage private investment in the development of renewable energy."

While the case was pending, the General Assembly passed a law outlawing third-party solar sales.

NC WARN said it's considering appealing the ruling.

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