Normally when talking about a solar tariff, the discussion refers to a feed-in tariff, which benefits consumers who go solar by reimbursing them a higher rate for the electricity they sell to the utility than they otherwise get. That’s not the case with the new tariff proposal from Georgia’s utility, Georgia Power. The utility introduced a rate increase request to the state’s Public Service Commission, asking to impose an estimated $22 per month ($262 a year) solar tariff that customers with solar homes would have to pay.
Such a tariff is unfair to the state’s solar consumers, says Georgia Solar Energy Association Chairman Mark Bell. “This proposal penalizes solar at the exclusion of other energy saving methods, which Georgia Power supports. Georgia Power has traditionally supported energy efficiency and we feel solar is another excellent approach for customers to save money on their energy bills,” Bell said.
“GSEA recommends that the Georgia Public Service Commissioners support the concept of a free market and a consumer’s right to choose safe, affordable options that work for their home or business. They should oppose this tariff,” Bell said.
Although the commission hasn’t made its final decision on the proposed rate increase, it is hopefully already dead in the water for a number of reasons. Bell observed that residential solar is still far less than 1 percent of Georgia Power’s generation capacity and there’s not enough “cost of use” information to justify such a charge at this point. Staffers at the commission apparently agreed, recommending the commission rule against imposing the solar tariff.
If Georgia Power succeeds, however, it could start imposing the tariff on grid-connected solar owners as soon as 2014.
GESEA is concerned that the impact of such a tariff could have 'chilling effect’ on the robust growth of solar development now under way in Georgia. It would also impact the jobs that Georgia’s solar installers are creating every day.
Such a step could also represent a step back for Georgia’s recent solar ambitions. Earlier this year the state’s conservative-led commission determined that Georgia Power could and should add in 525 megawatts of solar power—with 100 megawatts of that solar energy derived from distributed sources like homes and businesses.
It also seems to counter the spirit of legislation—HB 657, The Rural Georgia Economic Recovery and Solar Resource Act of 2013—proposed late in the Georgia legislative session that would allow third-party ownership of solar in Georgia. Such legislation would help clarify how the state deals with third-party ownership options like power-purchase agreements.