Empowering Western NC and Upstate SC with Solar Since 1995

(Commentary from Dave Hollister, President and CEO of Sundance Power Systems.)

Several months ago we were told by French Broad Electric Membership Corporation that they were going to stop the Net Metering program which has been in place since 1996.  Back in 1996, the General Manager of FBEMC was Charles Tolley.   Charles was a big fan of renewable energy and when Sierra and I approached him with our desire to Net Meter our first solar installation on our own house, he rose to the occasion and agreed to meet and discuss.

The meeting occurred at our kitchen table over coffee and donuts, and within an hour or so the first Net Metering agreement was established which paved the way for our home being the first officially net metered home in NC. At that time, the NC Solar Center was also net metered within special considerations afforded the University by North Carolina Power and Light (now Progress Energy.)

It took just about a decade to pass interconnection standards and pave the way for net metering for the Investor- owned utilities in NC, however the EMCs were left off of the legislation.

Considering the prospects of Climate Change and the environmental catastrophe that is predicted if we do not curtail the CO2 emissions  from power plants around the world it seems mal-adaptive and insensitive to put up any restriction to the implementation of solar development.

FBEMC claims that if people install solar systems using net metering it will raise rates on its members and will essentially mean that customer that do not choose to go solar will be subsidizing the folks who do.  This logic is invalid within certain limits of market penetration for solar and discounts the “socialized losses” of continuing to rely on the dirty energy sources of coal, nuclear, and natural gas.

Below is a letter we recently wrote to the editor of the News Sentinel that covered the story.  If you are currently served by FBEMC, we strongly recommend writing a letter to the editor immediately showing your support for Net Metering and picking up the phone and calling French Broad Electric.  Be advised though… when we called French Broad we were told by the receptionist that solar “just doesn’t work very well”.  We need to do our part to educate and raise the consciousness of this EMC so that they can once again provide strong leadership toward creating pathways and solutions for sustainability as that they did back in 1996.

 To The Editor of the News Record,

First, I want to thank the News-Record for reporting on the issue of Net Metering for Solar Electric systems on the French Broad EMC (FBEMC) electric grid.  Unfortunately, the paper missed some very important facts about this issue and gave voice to theories and conjecture that have not been proven to be true.

 1) 45 states and the District of Columbia (including NC) have some form of a Net Metering law which requires that utilities net meter solar electric systems.  With this level of development the idea of net metering has been discussed in the public square for years.  Time and again the ideas presented by FBEMC have been discounted and States have adopted these policies to promote this clean and reliable energy source.

 2) The 71 year old business model which FBEMC speaks of has built in cost- recovery measures that account for variations in interconnection costs and consumption differences between customers.  All houses consume different amounts of energy and cost different amounts of money to interconnect.  There are wide variations and the model already accounts for this variation.

 3) The energy efficiency measures which FBEMC advertise on their website have the very same consequences to the grid as net metering, yet they are opposed to net metering.  This constitutes a prejudice against the technology rather than its impact on the grid or rates.

 4) There has been no data supplied by FBEMC to substantiate the claims they are making, and when asked, they refuse to provide ANY evidence.

 5) While FBEMC is a membership based organization there has been NO effort made to talk with or consult with the membership and the stakeholders for this issue before making this and other decisions (i.e. spraying chemicals along the right of ways).  This has had serious adverse effects for members of the Community.

 6) The outdated business model and policies of FBEMC against solar has driven one of the largest employers out of the community. The net impact of which will be significant by not only making our rates go up far  more than net metering will, but will also cost tax payers in the town of Mars Hill dearly, and impact economic development in the service area.

 7) Solar energy is the cleanest, most reliable, safest and sustainable energy source for the long term. Currently solar energy receives significantly less subsidies than fossil fuel and nuclear power, and yet it is still cheaper in the long run with no serious environmental side effects!

I think it is time for FBEMC to open its doors and become the Membership Corp it once was.  Clinging to a 71 year old business model will certainly not help our community solve the 21st century issues we need to address to become a vibrant, prosperous and sustainable community for the future success of our region and our world!


  Dave Hollister — President, Sundance Power Systems

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