Georgia Power Withdraws Request for Solar Power Fee
This post was written by attorney Roland F. Hall.
Georgia Power has reached a preliminary agreement with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) regarding its proposed rate increase for Georgia Power customers. In addition to a tentative agreement to cut its proposed rate hike, Georgia Power has also agreed to drop its request for a solar power fee. The fee would have been imposed on residential consumers who install solar panels on their homes and reduce their power bills through net metering. View the article here.
Georgia Power stated through its spokesperson that the fee on solar power customers was needed because such customers were not paying the full costs of services they were receiving, such as supplemental power services. Georgia Power raised the same argument being used by other utilities – that not requiring solar customers to pay for costs they impose on the system results in non-solar customers subsidizing net metering customers using solar energy. A staff member of the Georgia PSC opposed the fee and argued that the fee would deter residential customers from engaging in renewable energy alternatives. The staff member and a consultant argued that subsidization/cost shifting was not a significant issue.
The proposed fee was fiercely opposed by solar power advocates and was portrayed as a “solar tax.” Many electric utilities across the country are struggling with this same issue, with mixed results. Public utility commissions, utilities and solar groups have all commissioned studies focusing on subsidization, and not surprisingly the different studies reach very different conclusions. Although the issue is more pressing in states such as California where the number of net metering customers is rapidly increasing, Georgia Power’s fee request shows that the issue will at some point have to be dealt with by every electric utility.