North Carolina is one of only five states with a law on the books that specifically prohibits third-party energy sales. This presents a problem for property owners who wish to buy renewable energy for their homes.

Elsewhere, you could pay a solar provider to build a solar system on your property, lease the system from that provider, and buy the energy the system produced directly from that provider. Such power-purchase agreements (PPAs) are especially attractive because they make solar much more affordable for ordinary people. They also appeal to nonprofits, who would be allowed to monetize federal investment tax credits through PPAs.

Yesterday, a rather large nonprofit called Duke University—especially not to be confused here with Duke Energy—called for the state legislature to take action on legalizing third-party energy sales. In a letter to Rep. John Szoka, vice president for public affairs and government relations Michael J. Schoenfeld wrote:

Legalizing third-party energy sales will allow North Carolina to access the value of distributed renewable energy and grow an industry that has already created economic activity and new jobs. As a major consumer of electricity, a home to more than 15,000 students from around the world, and the employer of more than 36,000 North Carolina citizens, we [Duke University] encourage the adoption of legislation that will make these benefits available to all.

The move was a reaction to the efforts of the Duke Climate Coalition, a student-led organization that advocates for renewable-energy causes.

“This is the first time Duke University has publicly supported anything at the legislative level in regard to renewable energy,” Claire Wang, a Duke freshman, tells the INDY.

Wang notes that, although the school has a current action plan to become climate neutral by 2024, that plan focuses on energy efficiency and transportation. “Legalizing third-power energy would allow Duke to explore more options and achieve neutrality quicker,” she says.

“We see this as the first step in a longer-term commitment from Duke to support better energy policies at the state level,” Wang says.

Szoka introduced a third-party energy bill in the 2015 session, but it didn’t go far. Duke’s letter to Szoka can be viewed in the PDF below.