ALEC, Duke Energy Don’t Own The Sun, So They Sued A Church

The nonprofit, North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network (NC WARN), entered into an experimental, renewable energy-based, Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Faith Community Church, called the Solar Freedom Project (SFP).

In June, the church and nonprofit had a ribbon cutting ceremony, and the nonprofit installed a 5.2 kilowatt photovoltaic system consisting of 20 solar panels on the church’s roof.

NC WARN says the SFP is a test that will “clarify public policy.” As part of the PPA, the nonprofit supplies “third party, no money down financing” for the panels and ongoing maintenance, and also covers all legal fees.

In exchange, according to NC WARN, Faith Community Church pays a monthly “bill” to cover a small financing fee, and “less than half the kilowatt-hour price” for the electricity generated using what they call “God’s sunlight.”

Faith Community Church Solar Freedom Ribbon Cutting , ALEC, Duke Energy, NC WARN
Solar Freedom Press Conference Image Provided By NC WARN

Not to be outdone by freedom or God, four huge right wing groups ganged up on NC WARN and Faith Community Church to lower the bar of their hypocrisy even further than ever before. The groups are suing the nonprofit and church because by believing God owns the sun, they are defying Duke Energy and its declared monopoly on sunlight.

No, this is not satirical, it’s a very real a “thing.”

Who Owns The Sun, And Its Energy Called Sunlight?

NC WARN filed a legal request to the NCUC calling on it to exempt the nonprofit from being declared a “public utility.”

They’re wrong; Faith Community Church’s and NC WARN’s actions are illegal, not noble, says Duke Energy according to the Charlotte Business Observer.

In retaliation, the four groups want to stop the Solar Freedom Project, strip God of his or her ownership rights of the sun, and then hand them over to Duke Energy, according to Politics USA.

The groups include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Duke Energy, the Koch Brothers, and the Heartland Institute, which will be known as “ALEC et al.” throughout.

To get their way, the supposedly Libertarian-leaning, God-loving ALEC et al. – proponents of fewer regulations, smaller government, free market capitalism, and everything God – ran as fast as they could to the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC) to tattle on NC WARN, the church, and God.

Duke Energy monopolizes energy sales in three of four states that don’t allow competition, including N.C., according to Truth Out. The company just finished building four solar farms in September, which theoretically makes Duke Energy the legal monopoly on N.C.’s sunlight, too, says ALEC et al., according to Politics USA.

Although science and God would likely disagree, ALEC et al., petitioned the NCUC to force NC WARN to cease and desist, and:

  • Strip God of his or her ownership rights of the 4.5 billion year old star we call the “sun,” and change its definition to “third party utility,”
  • Make NC WARN pay a $120,000 fine, plus 1,000 for every day the panels are up.

Solar companies sell solar energy to customers in non-monopoly states directly if the systems are, “On those customers’ property,” says NC WARN, but “Until now, no one has tested it in North Carolina.”

Pushing Legal Boundaries And Perspectives

NC WARN and Faith Community knew they were pushing boundaries with the PPA, but neither anticipated just how far ALEC et al. might push back.

A bill introduced earlier in the year titled the “Energy Freedom Act,” backed by NC WARN and other environmental groups, would have allowed direct-to-consumer sales, making this whole NCUC business moot, but it failed.

More recently, the Electricity Freedom Act was introduced into the N.C. legislature, and it mirrors ALEC’s own “model policy” bearing the same name. Backed by the Koch Brothers, if enacted, it would completely repeal renewable energy bills of the state in which it’s enacted.

Faith Community’s Reverend Nelson Johnson said:

This giant monopoly, Duke Energy, should not be entitled to the energy from the sun, which God has given to all of us.

Duke Energy says “the law is clear,” according to Politics USA, but with the NCUC unsure of its own authority to rule on the case, the only thing that is clear is that ALEC et al. feels threatened by the SFP, NC WARN, and Faith Community Church. The question is, why?

NC WARN is a smallish, 27-year-old nonprofit with a 2104 net income of just $1 million, according to an IRS filling, and would disintegrate if the NCUC makes it pay a $120,000 fine

ALEC et al., on the other hand, is backed by trillions in collective funding via its right wing supporters like the Koch Brothers, thousands of collective solar panels via solar farms, and millions of collective energy customers.

It is difficult to understand why ALEC et al. would feel threatened by a single customer, or understand the groups’ collective attempts to bully a nonprofit and a church, just to keep 20 solar panels from going up.

Maybe it has to do with the provision of the PPA that guarantees NC WARN would donate the panels to the church if its efforts fail in the NCUC proceeding? This would turn Faith Community into a “self generator” under Duke Energy’s “net parallel” program, usually reserved for large providers like hospitals.

Even if ALEC et al. – Duke Energy – wins with the NCUC, they “lose” as a result, as the church gets to use God’s sunlight, whether ALEC et al. owns the sun or not.

Featured Image via Press Conference by NC WARN