Dominion Energy’s Frankenstein proposal would cast a shadow on rooftop solar in SC

Dominion’s recent maneuver to introduce a discriminatory solar proposal reverses their prior leadership and threatens the very solar choice that the state's Energy Freedom Act sought to protect. If implemented, it would force the average solar customer to pay almost $50 per month in extra fees just for owning solar. Here's what customers can do to stop Dominion.

Bryan Jacob | March 12, 2021 | Energy Policy, Solar, South Carolina

Solar saves customers money, sustains thousands of South Carolina jobs, and generates $1.5 billion annually in the state. Plus it helps preserve people’s homes and the beautiful coastal landscapes and protects public health from polluting fossil fuels. South Carolina has made significant progress toward becoming a regional solar leader. However, Dominion Energy South Carolina (DESC) has proposed a scheme that would forestall that progress in its territory. South Carolina energy regulators have scheduled a public hearing for DESC customers on March 23 about this proposal and we encourage all Dominion customers to participate.

Legacy SunRiser now Throwing Shade at Rooftop Solar

SCE&G earned distinction as a SunRiser in our first Solar in the Southeast Annual Report, meaning it was a leader in installing solar among regional peer utilities. Dominion inherited that title when it bought SCE&G and has, thus far, remained among the regional solar leaders for utilities in the Southeast. With state policies such as the Energy Freedom Act the state legislature passed unanimously in 2019 to sustain South Carolina’s market for both utility-scale and distributed (rooftop) solar, SACE had anticipated Dominion’s solar progress to continue. Dominion’s recent maneuver to introduce a discriminatory solar proposal, however, reverses their leadership and threatens the very solar choice that the Energy Freedom Act sought to protect.

South Carolina is on track to lead the Southeast region in solar watts per customer, but Dominion’s new solar program would go against this historic progress. Source: SACE’s “Solar in the Southeast” third annual report, released June 2020, page 12.

Is it Frankenstein? Or is it Dominion’s solar proposal? Or is it both?

Dominion’s new rooftop solar proposal has been referred to as “a Frankenstein monster” that takes the worst solar ratemaking components from across the country and rolls them together in South Carolina. If implemented, it would effectively charge customers more for using solar and devalue those investments.

Among other things, it would force the average solar customer to pay almost $50 per month in extra fees just for owning solar.  These fees include a discriminatory fixed charge of $10 extra per month for all solar customers and an additional penalty of $5.40 per month per kW of solar that would be about $38 per month for an average-sized system of 7 kW. The net result is that the simple payback period for new solar customers would double compared to what the utility currently offers (20 years versus 9.4 years).

Additionally, Dominion’s proposal will reduce rooftop solar customers’ netting period, resulting in rooftop solar owners earning less for the power they’re generating. 

Lastly, it would essentially eliminate the market for solar leasing in Dominion’s territory, which is a key enabler of solar access for families with lower and moderate-income.

This rooftop solar filing comes on the heels of the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) protecting customers by unanimously rejecting Dominion’s energy plan in December 2020 because the PSC found Dominion’s plan didn’t have enough solar and energy efficiency investment in it (among other reasons).

So why is Dominion trying to block rooftop solar when regulators are clearly asking them to incentivize and invest in it more?

Dominion proposal would grind a burgeoning solar jobs industry to a halt and keep customer’s electric bills high

Not only is Dominion’s egregious solar proposal an attack on Dominion customers’ personal freedoms, but it is also an attack on the solar workforce, thousands of South Carolinians strong, and the industry’s $1.5 billion annual contributions to the state’s economy. Passing Dominion’s egregious solar policy proposal would effectively force these highly-skilled jobs out of Dominion’s territory and disincentive economic growth in a struggling economy.

South Carolinians pay some of the highest electric bills in the nation and use more power than people in most other states. Installing rooftop solar is one way customers can cut both their energy bills and energy usage. Dominion should be encouraging more clean energy sources that help customers lower bills, especially in today’s tight economy. Even if customers don’t currently own rooftop solar or plan to in the near future, they still reap the benefits of distributed solar on the power system from a healthier environment and a more resilient grid.

Raise Your Voice

SACE intervened at the Public Service Commission to oppose Dominion’s discriminatory program that, if approved, will impede solar development in South Carolina. If you’re a Dominion customer, you can also let the PSC know what you think in two different ways:

Speak at a virtual public hearing in front of the South Carolina PSC on March 23

Participation at the PSC hearing will be via phone and time slots are available from 9 AM to 7 PM ET. If you are able to speak, email the PSC or call 803-896-5133 and provide your name, phone number, and address. Only Dominion customers should sign up to speak at this hearing and should speak only on their own behalf. Time slots are assigned in the order you sign up. Please note speaking time is limited to three minutes and will be under oath. Additional information can be found in the PSC meeting notice.

Send a letter to the South Carolina PSC before March 23

Send an email to the South Carolina Public Service Commission ([email protected]) before March 23. Make sure to include the case’s docket number, 2020-229-E in the subject line and your name and address. Again, comments should be from Dominion customers and not on behalf of SACE or other organization. Your comments at the hearing on March 23 or via email can be brief, letting the PSC know that customers should have the freedom to use solar without being penalized by Dominion.

The bottom line is that solar saves customers money, sustains thousands of jobs, generates $1.5 billion annually in the state, and helps preserve our environment. We can’t let Dominion stifle South Carolina’s solar progress. Please raise your voice and speak at the March 23 hearing or send the PSC an email to stop this bad proposal!

Bryan Jacob
Bryan joined the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in June 2017. As Solar Program Director, Bryan leads activities to promote solar power across the Southeast. These activities range from conducting…
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