A partial settlement reached by Duke Energy in its North Carolina rate cases may preview some changes coming to local grids across the country.
Among other things, the settlement, which must be approved by North Carolina regulators, calls for Duke to contribute $6 million to a fund that helps pay for energy efficiency projects for its low-income residential customers; develop new energy efficiency programs for low-income residential customers; and develop a program to help households finance energy efficiency projects and rooftop solar installations.
I think in the months ahead, you'll see utilities reach more rate case settlements with provisions such as these. The country's precarious economic state as a result of its horrendous response to the novel coronavirus pandemic has increased awareness about the number of Americans in dire financial shape, giving their advocates an opening to pressure utilities to fund programs that lower their bills, especially if those programs make the grid cleaner. To the extent that those programs promote energy efficiency and solar generation, they could lead to a decrease in residential demand (or less of an increase in it if many of the people who began working from home due to the pandemic don't return to their offices), and an increase in residential solar generation.