The Marietta Daily Journal – Company customers debate raising rates on solar


The Marietta Daily Journal – Company customers debate raising rates on solar

MARIETTA — Going green could carry an extra price tag.

Georgia Power says customers with solar panels on their homes or businesses who don’t opt into the company’s Advanced Solar Initiative need to start paying an extra fee on their power bill.

The energy monopoly has asked the Georgia Public Service Commission for permission to raise its rates an average of $8 monthly for residential customers. Coupled with that is a request to charge an extra $22 monthly on the typical home solar system.

Customers can apply to become part of the initiative, a solar energy purchase program, but spots are limited. Homes or businesses that rely completely on solar power and disconnect from the utility’s grid would be unaffected.

The PSC is expected to vote on the request in mid-December and heard testimony from the power company this week. If approved, the hike would go into effect in January.

John Kraft, Georgia Power spokesman, says the fee is needed because solar customers buy less power from the utility but still require access to the grid and other infrastructure.

“They don’t want to go into the dark so they want us to instantly provide a seamless amount of power,” Kraft said.

Most solar homes do not generate enough electricity to rely exclusively on the panels. Kraft says usually homes still need to be connected to a utility’s system for power at night or on cloudy days when less solar power is produced.

“It means we have to have power on standby to serve that need in case it comes up,” Kraft said.

The rate increase for traditional customers would last three years and is the first request since 2010 when the service commission approved another request for a three-year increase.

Georgia Power would earn a profit of between 10.25 percent and 12.25 percent for every dollar it invests in its system under the proposal. If profits exceeded the top range, customers would get back two-thirds of the excess collections. Georgia Power CFO Ron Hinson said those profit levels are necessary to attract shareholders whose cash is used to build and maintain an electric system serving nearly 2.4 million customers.

“Solar or wind, for instance, are intermittent. We can’t count on a certain amount of solar at any given time due to clouds, storms, etc.,” Kraft said. “Also, solar generation tends to peak by 2 p.m. and then declines. Our system peak is between 5 and 7 p.m., so at the period of greatest strain, solar systems are back to pulling from Georgia Power.”
Solar energy is becoming a popular option because of increasing electric rates and environmental concerns. Though panels still carry a heft price tag, government incentives and tax rebates are making the cost more affordable.
Deidra Hodges is a professor at Southern Polytechnic State University who installed solar panels on her Hiram home last year. Of the $26,000 she spent on the 26 panels, about 75 percent she got back in government incentives and rebates.
Her power bill dropped dramatically from an average of $150 monthly on her 1,800-square foot home. Now, she occasionally gets credits back from her power provider, GreyStone Power Corp., because she gives the company more electricity than she takes.
Though she pays an administrative fee of around $25 to GreyStone, she’s skeptical of Georgia Power’s rationale for charging solar customers an extra fee.
“Show us why there’s such a big cost,” Hodges said. “Is it really that high or is that you don’t want to accept the solar power from customers?”

via The Marietta Daily Journal – Company customers debate raising rates on solar.

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