In a move that’s seen as a win for the solar industry, the Georgia Public Services Commission (PSC) and Georgia Power, the state’s monopoly utility, chose to not impose a $22 monthly fee on solar installations on Nov. 18. In addition, the preliminary ruling would help keep the costs of electricity down in the Peach State by keeping Georgia Power’s rate of return lower than the 11.5 percent rate the company originally filed for.
The move is a significant difference from what occurred in Arizona last week. There, the Arizona Corporation Commission agreed to let the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), impose a fee on solar users—albeit a much smaller fee than the utility wanted. Utilities across the nation are figuring out how to make sure net-metering work within their existing business models, with taking steps, like in Arizona, California and Georgia to either reduce the amount they reimburse for net-metered, solar powered customers, or impose additional fees on them. To varying degrees of success, utilities are arguing that solar homeowners aren’t paying for their fair share of upkeep for the electric grid and therefore the utilities should be able to charge them extra for the solar energy they produce.
“This agreement, which follows the prudent recommendation of the PSC staff, is a wise evaluation of the effect this punitive tariff would have had on solar development,” said Georgia Solar Energy Association Chairman Mark Bell. “As the staff analysis made clear, no justification existed for the proposed tariff.”
Had the tariff been imposed, “It would have set off a severe chilling effect on the increased investment solar projects have recently enjoyed under the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative. On behalf of Georgia’s solar professionals, GSEA is grateful this economic growth can continue unhindered,” Bell said.
Not only did the commission push back against a tariff, it also reduced Georgia Power’s proposed rate hike. The preliminary decision reached by the conservative-led PSC would reduce the monopoly’s rate of return to 10.95 percent. That reduces the proposed $1.5 billion rate hike to $873 million, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That equates to a rate hike of $2.19 a month for customers more in 2014, as opposed to a rate hike of $7.84 a month as Georgia Power proposed.
The state PSC’s support of solar has been growing. Earlier in 2013 the commission decided to drastically expand the amount of solar in the state by increasing Georgia Power’s solar portfolio to 525 megawatts by 2016. That also includes a significant carve-out for rooftop solar, 100 megawatts.