Georgia's solar energy businesses and consumers won an important victory yesterday with the state’s largest utility, Georgia Power, dropping a proposed solar customer charge after experiencing overwhelming Commission and staff disapproval.
As part of its ongoing general rate case, Georgia Power had petitioned the Commission earlier to impose new charges on customers who install and use solar energy systems at their homes, businesses and farms. This proposed monthly fee would have amounted to about half of what customers would otherwise save on their electric bills after investing in solar panels just as the declining cost of solar panels is prompting more property owners to consider buying them. For a homeowner with a typical 5-kW solar system, Georgia Power was proposing a fee of $27.80 per month.
Consumer groups, solar businesses and other stakeholders came out in force to oppose the discriminatory tax, stating that it would prop up the monopoly utility at the expense of market competition and individual property rights. As we are seeing elsewhere in the country, the utility’s rather arbitrary fee proposal was not justified by any fact-based assessment of the value of customer-generated solar power.
Thankfully a majority of commissioners and staff saw Georgia Power’s proposal for what it was, an ill-conceived and unpopular attempt to stand between customers and the homegrown solar power they want. The Commission is expected to finalize the stipulation in the rate case by December 17.
So, in the national battle between traditional utilities and customer solar rights, we can put another win in the solar column. This victory in Georgia comes on the heels of a much-watched contest in Arizona, where the utility’s egregious proposal of a $50-$100 fee on solar customers was also soundly defeated last week. Commissions in Idaho and Louisiana upheld their net metering policies against attacks earlier this year as well.
In all cases, the utilities’ anti-solar proposals were met with strong opposition from a public that increasingly wants to generate its own power from the sun. It seems that attempting to regulate against customer choice and market innovation is a losing proposition.
Lead image: Denied stamp via Shutterstock