North Carolina commission defines what it wants argued in solar QF case

The North Carolina Utilities Commission on Feb. 9 issued an order that defines what should be covered in upcoming briefs in a disipute over Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion North Carolina Power obligations to take power from nine solar projects.

On Dec. 30, 2014, Tarboro Solar LLC, Aulander Solar LLC, Woodland Solar LLC, Winton Solar LLC, Garysburg Solar LLC, Gaston Solar LLC, Seaboard Solar LLC, Jamesville Solar LLC, Weldon Solar LLC (as one group called the Solar Qfs) and Community Energy Solar LLC filed a complaint against Dominion North Carolina Power (DNCP).

“In summary, Complainants allege that the Solar QFs are nine renewable energy projects located in DNCP’s service territory and that each is entitled to sell power to DNCP under terms established pursuant to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA),” the commission said in the Feb. 9 order. “However, DNCP has refused to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with any of the Solar QFs, and instead has filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), pursuant to PURPA Section 210(m), seeking to terminate its purchase obligations with respect to the Solar QFs.

“The relief requested by Complainants is that the Commission treat their Complaint as a request for declaratory judgment pursuant to G.S. 1-253, declare that each of the Solar QFs has a legally enforceable obligation (LEO) with regard to its sale of power to DNCP, and order DNCP to enter into a long-term PPA in accordance with DNCP’s Schedule 19-FP with each of the Solar QFs.”

DNCP contends that FERC has the exclusive jurisdiction under PURPA to determine whether DNCP has demonstrated sufficient grounds to be relieved of its obligation under PURPA Section 210(m). However, DNCP agrees with the Solar QFs that the North Carolina commission has the jurisdiction to determine whether and on what date each Solar QF established a LEO to require DNCP to purchase the QF’s electricity, subject to a FERC determination that DNCP is exempt from that obligation under PURPA Section 210(m).

On Jan. 27, the North Carolina commission issued an order that requires the complainants and DNCP to file briefs by Feb. 16. In addition, the order allows the complainants and DNCP to file reply briefs by March 9 and schedules an oral argument before the commission on March 17.

On Feb. 4, complainants and DNCP filed a joint motion requesting that the commission refine the issues to be briefed by the parties. They stated, among other things, that they have agreed that it is in their mutual interest to stay complainants’ request for injunctive relief pending FERC’s resolution of DNCP’s PURPA Section 210(m) petition. They agree that the North Carolina commission has jurisdiction to determine the LEOs of the Solar QFs, and that at this time they prefer to limit their briefs and oral arguments to that issue. Specifically, they state that the sole question that they would like to present to the commission is: Whether the Solar QFs established LEOs prior to DNCP filing its PURPA Section 210(m) petition with FERC on October 31, 2014?

“Based on the Movants’ joint motion and the record, the Chairman finds good cause to grant the relief requested by the Movants,” said the Feb. 9 order. “However, the Chairman finds that it will be more helpful to the Commission to refine the issue to be briefed and argued as follows: Whether each of the Solar QFs has established a LEO and, if so, what is the date of each Solar QF’s LEO? IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED as follows: 1. That the joint motion of Complainants and DNCP to stay the Commission’s consideration of the injunctive relief requested by Complainants shall be, and is hereby, granted. 2. That the Complainants’ and DNCP’s briefs and oral arguments shall address the question of whether each of the Solar QFs has established a LEO and, if so, the date of each Solar QF’s LEO. 3. That the briefing and oral argument schedule established by the Commission’s January 27, 2015 Order shall remain unchanged.”

Each QF facility will have a rating of either 5 MW or 4.99 MW. Project development of each of the facilities is being conducted by Community Energy Solar, pursuant to a Development Services Agreement with its affiliate, Community Energy Renewables.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.