This blog was written by Alissa Schafer, former Solar Policy & Communications Manager at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.Guest Blog | January 17, 2018
Some good news to share! Last year we sounded the alarm on Central Georgia Electric Membership Cooperative’s (EMC) new mandatory monthly fee suddenly being charged to solar customers. We connected with Robert Fowler of Locust Grove, Georgia, a solar owner who was dismayed over the punitive charge and motivated to do something about it. After extensive conversation with Central Georgia EMC, Fowler wrote a letter to his Georgia legislators, which we posted on our blog and shared with local media.
In his outreach to Central Georgia EMC and elected officials, Fowler explained that not only was this charge unexpected, it was expensive and ate up the majority of his power bills savings that he had previously been enjoying thanks to his investment in solar. The charge was structured as an additional $7 fee per installed kilowatt to each solar customer’s bill ($57.33 for Fowler). To make matters worse, the fee was coupled with a reduction in the credit Central Georgia EMC gave customers for the kilowatt-hours their solar panels send back to the grid down to what is called “avoided cost.” In short, it was a heavy-handed billing tactic that effectively removed any financial benefit for residents who wanted to control their own power bills by using solar energy.
Thankfully, however, that was not the end of the story. After listening to feedback explaining why this bill structure is bad rate design and discriminatory towards solar customers, Central Georgia EMC revisited the decision and ultimately voted to remove the additional charges completely. They outline this decision in a new, updated solar policy for their customers, which went into effect on November 1, 2017.
It is encouraging to see this course correction by the co-op! By removing these additional charges, Central Georgia EMC has made the right decision. The current policy will allow customers to invest in their own energy generation without having to worry about unfair fees.
That said, the new policy is not perfect. While customer who were hit with the $7/installed kilowatt fee were reimbursed for 80 percent of those fees, they did not receive 100 percent, and it would have made sense to “grandfather” the handful of current solar customers into the original net metering agreements rather than dropping everyone down to the avoided cost rate. Even so, removing the exorbitant fee was absolutely the right thing to do and we are very happy that Central Georgia EMC made this decision. Additionally, a Time Of Use rate option was introduced, which is another good step by Central Georgia EMC towards giving their customers more options.
We are encourage to see this positive move and will continue to advocate for fair solar policies and hold utilities accountable throughout the Southeast.