Since its inception last summer, the North Carolina SREC market has not materialized into the type of market seen in other states like New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts. There are several factors lending to the stagnation of this market, many of which were covered in our blog post “Where is the NC SREC Market?” published last August. Since then, the nascent NC market has continued to dwindle. Most small solar facilities in North Carolina have been selling their SRECs into the DC market, an opportunity that will be closing as new legislation in DC shuts the market to out-of-state facilities.
A few factors impair the viability of the North Carolina market:
1) The absence of both an SACP and transparent market prices make it difficult for projects to find viable SREC-based financing.
2) There is a shortage of buyers. The two main buyers, Duke Energy and Progress Energy, which serve 65% of NC utility customers and provide 71% of the state’s electricity, have both met their NC REPS compliance needs for solar, with Progress locking out SRECs until 2014 and Duke having ample supply through 2018, the final year of RPS compliance.
3) North Carolina accepts 25% of its SRECs from out of state sited facilities.
In an effort to curb these seemingly premature accomplishments by utilities, legislators in North Carolina introduced two important clean energy bills in the last few months: the Solar Jobs Bill (HB495/SB473) and the Energy Independence and Job Creation Bill (SB694). The former aspired to increase the solar requirement for utilities from .2% to .4% of retail electric sales by 2018 in an effort to further develop the state’s solar industry, while also requiring that no more than 12.5% of the RECs applied towards the RPS requirements come from out-of-state generators. If this bill were to pass, it would help catalyze an NC SREC market as utilities would need to find additional sources of SRECs to meet new compliance targets. To create more flexibility, the Energy Independence and Job Creation Bill allowed for “third party sales” of renewable energy, or the ability for facilities with third-party owned renewable systems to buy electricity directly from the third-party without classifying them as utilities, so long as their capacity is under 2 MW. This bill would open the North Carolina market up to third-party financing companies like SunRun, SolarCity and Sungevity, which would foster the development of solar leasing and PPAs.
Unfortunately, neither of these bills were taken up by legislators by the crossover deadline on June 9th, effectively rendering them dead until the start of the 2013 session. For now, the future remains unclear for a more active SREC market in North Carolina.