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Elon Law scholar: Improve the law to support clean energy

"Solar Financing in North Carolina: The Untapped Potential of Power Purchase Agreements" by Associate Professor Andy Haile was published in the most recent issue of the North Carolina Law Review.

Associate Professor Andy Haile

They’re known as “power purchase agreements.” Across the United States, when a homeowner wants to install costly solar panels to generate electricity, they sometimes finance those panels by paying a third party for the energy the panels produce.

Over time, the third party is fully compensated for the panels, while the homeowners pays less per month for clean solar energy than what he or she would pay a power company that burns fossil fuels.

But in North Carolina, such arrangements are banned, as they are deemed to violate the monopoly that the state has granted Duke Energy and other public utilities. 

Associate Professor Andy Haile believes that power purchase agreements should, in fact, be legal, and he makes his argument in “Solar Financing in North Carolina: The Untapped Potential of Power Purchase Agreements,” published by the North Carolina Law Review. 

The prohibition against power purchase agreements will slow the spread of rooftop solar photovoltaic systems in North Carolina, Haile writes. In addition to the detrimental environmental effects it will have, equity is also a factor as only the wealthy are able to afford the economic benefits and environmental stewardship resulting from solar ownership.

Haile concludes that power purchase agreements “do not implicate the traditional justifications for regulation by the Utilities Commission and are therefore outside the Commission’s authority to prohibit.” He also offers legislative and judicial solutions to the current prohibition against PPAs in North Carolina.

“Solar Financing in North Carolina” was in the publication process over the summer when North Carolina’s General Assembly specifically outlawed power purchase agreements. In a recent interview, Haile lamented the legislative ban, which codified the Utilities Commission’s existing practice.

“For the time being, the General Assembly has limited the potential for rooftop solar by prohibiting power purchase agreements, a common form of financing in other states,” Haile said. “My hope is that this article will explain why power purchase agreements should be permitted in North Carolina, both to improve our environment and to empower individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford solar panels on their homes.” 

Haile joined the Elon Law faculty in June 2008, prior to which he was a partner with the law firm of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, L.L.P, in the firm’s Greensboro office. Haile teaches business and tax law classes. His primary areas of research include tax policy and state and local tax issues.

While in practice, Haile represented clients in mergers and acquisitions as well as matters involving complex tax planning and tax litigation. He served as judicial clerk to Judge Frank W. Bullock, Jr., former chief judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina from 2000-2001.

Haile received his law degree from Stanford Law School in 2000, where he was a member of the Stanford Law Review and was awarded the Order of the Coif. He received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Davidson College in 1994, where finished second in his class and was named to the college’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Eric Townsend,
10/3/2017 9:50 AM