South Carolina's Energy Freedom Act requires the Public Service Commission to establish a "solar choice metering tariff" for customer-generators (e.g., rooftop solar customers). Customers seem overwhelmingly opposed to the Dominion proposal. On the other hand, the Duke proposals (collaboratively created with stakeholders) could represent the next generation of net metering and a major advancement for the solar industry.Bryan Jacob | April 27, 2021
Update: on April 28, 2021, the Public Service Commission of South Carolina (PSC SC) voted to reject the proposal from Dominion Energy (and that from the Office of Regulatory Staff, as well). Instead, they chose to adopt the proposal from the Joint Clean Energy Intervenors (including SACE). Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) represented us in this matter and issued a press release including the following: “The commission’s ruling helps ensure fair compensation for solar customers and will sustain this important segment of South Carolina’s clean energy job market,” said Bryan Jacob, the solar program director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “This was one of the most complex aspects deriving from the Energy Freedom Act and SACE appreciates the Commission’s thoughtful approach in establishing solar choice metering.”
Last month, I wrote about how Dominion Energy’s Frankenstein proposal would cast a shadow on rooftop solar in South Carolina. Many Dominion customers were equally distressed by that proposal. A public hearing on March 23 ran into the wee hours of the morning March 24 with some 252 people signed up to testify (and 191 submitting written comments). Those remarks seemed overwhelmingly opposed to the Dominion proposal.
State Representative Nathan Ballentine, one of the original sponsors of the Energy Freedom Act (Act 62), expressed his opinion on the matter: Dominion’s new rooftop solar plan is wrong for South Carolina.
My additional views were published in the Charleston Regional Business Journal: Viewpoint: Dominion proposal attacks jobs, penalizes customers. And in that Op-ed, I stated, “There is a better way forward.” SACE had collaborated with other intervening parties to sponsor testimony from a rate design expert.
A Better Way
The Joint Clean Energy Intervenors proposal (summarized on page 36), an alternative for the Commission to consider, is similar in design to the Solar Choice metering proposal that both Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Carolinas have put forward. Unlike Dominion, the Duke utilities worked collaboratively with stakeholders to co-create a workable model that could be the next generation of net metering and a major advancement both for the solar industry as well as energy efficiency efforts in South Carolina.
While the Dominion scheme would literally cut the customer proposition for a solar investment in half (more than doubling the simple payback from 9.9 years to over 20 years), the Duke Energy Solar Choice Metering program would protect the residential solar market and deliver a modest 10% reduction in bill savings for an average solar customer compared to the current retail Net Energy Metering tariff. It even offers the opportunity for increased bill savings if customers more effectively manage their energy consumption.
This creative approach applies a time-of-use rate, which provides a price signal to encourage customers to make smart energy choices that reduce demand on the system. This helps to reduce costs for all ratepayers. The plan also incorporates a minimum monthly bill component to ensure that solar customers continue to pay their fair share of grid costs.
In addition to the Joint Clean Energy Intervenors alternative for the Dominion territory, SACE has also expressed our support for the Duke Energy proposals for their respective service territories.
Unlike the marathon public hearing on the Dominion proposal, when the Public Service Commission hosted a public hearing on the Duke proposals, that hearing only lasted about an hour and was largely supportive of the utilities’ design. This is a testament to how, working together in good faith, parties can reach a reasonable compromise that will help sustain the beneficial solar market in South Carolina. And I believe this is what the General Assembly intended with the Energy Freedom Act.