While going solar on your home is easier than ever, thanks to the proliferation of solar installers across the country, sometimes the highest cost of going solar can come from your utility. Now a new tool from the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) is aimed at showing consumers in the US Southeast how much a utility either pays or charges customers for going solar.
In some states utilities are required to offer net metering at same rate people pay for the retail costs of electricity while others aren’t required to pay the full amount or can even add charges to a customer just for having a solar system. The new Rates of Solar site launched by SELC and coinciding with its inaugural Solar Makers and Brakers list aims to help consumers know if their utility is solar-friendly or making solar power more expensive.
"We believe that everyone should have the ability to harvest the sun's energy at a reasonable price—creating stronger, cleaner, and healthier communities for all," said Lauren Bowen, SELC staff attorney. "This website provides one of the first comprehensive views of how solar customers are treated by utilities across the Southeast."
For instance, the tool showed in North Carolina Duke Energy doesn’t charge its rooftop solar customers fees for going solar and it pays them 10.42 cents per kilowatt, on average, for power they put back on the electric grid. Meanwhile Blue Ridge Energy in North Carolina charges its rooftop solar customers $53 a month for rooftop solar. Over the 30-year life of a solar system, which the tool estimates would cost $11,382, the customer would pay $19,080 in fees to the utility.
The tool offers estimates from most utilities in the six-state region including both Carolinas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. The organization said the site provides access to information on more than 400 solar policies across the region.
"With Rates of Solar, we aim to distill complicated rooftop solar policies for hundreds of utilities across the Southeast into simple, compelling stories that resonate with customers, advocates, utilities, and decision-makers," said Jill Kysor, SELC staff attorney. "This website provides a road map for educating and engaging communities interested in how their local utility stacks up against others when it comes to rooftop solar issues across the region.”
The site compliments SELC’s Solar Makers and Brakers list, which highlights utilities that are supporting rooftop solar and those that are opposing rooftop solar. Topping the list were Duke Energy and BARC Electric Cooperative, for instance. Duke was recognized for the above-mentioned policies while Virginia’s BARC was noted for crediting customers full retail rates for selling excess power back to the grid on systems up to 20 kilowatts in size, without imposing fees.
On the Brakers side of the list, SELC cited Alabama Power, which imposed a monthly charge on solar customers five years ago, and recently proposed raising the fee. Already the fee cuts the amount of savings homeowners could get by going solar by 50 percent, SELC claimed. Other “Brakers” included TVA and Blue Ridge Energy.Tweet