Author: Robert Walton@TeamWetDog PUBLISHED April 16, 2018

Dive Brief:
Duke Energy scored a pair of wins in North Carolina, agreeing to a relatively mild fine for coal ash contamination while also convincing regulators to approve the utility’s $62 million solar rebate program.
Associated Press reports the utility agreed to pay a $156,000 fine for polluting ground and surface water at three plants with coal ash in North Carolina. Critics called it a “paltry sum.”
In Kentucky, the Public Service Commission allowed Duke an annual rate increase of $8.4 million. The utility had initially requested $48.6 million and later lowered that to $30 million after changes to the federal corporate income tax rate.

It’s a financial mixed bag for Duke, particularly in Kentucky where regulators say they “substantially reduced” the utility’s rate increase, ultimately approving just 28% of the request.

In North Carolina, however, regulators supported Duke’s solar rebate program, under which residential customers will be eligible for a rebate of $0.60/watt for solar energy systems 10 kW or smaller. The program is required under a law the state passed last year.

Duke says that in it currently has more than 6,000 net metering customers, with total capacity of just over 50 MW. The rebate program is expected to increase the private solar market 200% over the next five years, according to Duke. The utility also agreed to a relatively modest fine in North Carolina, related to the cleanup and closure of its coal ash ponds.

Sierra Club’s David Rogers said told Associated Press, “I think it’s a paltry sum. It’s not going to be any sort of deterrent for Duke Energy.”

The utility says agreeing to the fines means it can begin to move forward with the cleanup of the sites. In February, the North Carolina Utilities Commission allowed Duke Energy Progress to raise customers’ fixed monthly charges by 25% and granted the utility rate increase of $232 million to pay for coal ash cleanups.