Duke Energy Wants to Enter the North Carolina Commercial Solar Leasing Market

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Duke Energy wants to expand its solar footprint into the commercial-scale market.

The regulated utility asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission for permission to lease solar to commercial customers, through a new non-regulated affiliate called Duke Energy Clean Energy Resources (DECER).

North Carolina trails only California for the most installed solar capacity in the U.S., thanks to its brisk pace of utility-scale construction. But solar at the commercial level has not accelerated in the same way.

The state installed an average of 15 commercial systems per quarter over the last four quarters, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables data. Quarterly commercial capacity additions have been stuck in the low-single-digit megawatt range for years.

“Sub-5 megawatts a year is basically a nonexistent market,” said Michelle Davis, a senior analyst covering distributed solar at WoodMac.

The main impediment to growth was that third-party solar leasing was not allowed, until Gov. Roy Cooper signed the Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina law last year. Now companies can lease solar to customers, rather than making them buy the system upfront, provided they get permission from North Carolina regulators.

DECER’s offering, if approved by regulators, would let businesses