Untax the Sun — Solar For ALL of Alabama

Alabama Power places an unfair tax on customers that use solar power. Solar power should be available to ALL of Alabama – free from unfair taxation!

Guest Blog | December 18, 2019 | Alabama, Energy Policy, Solar

This guest blog was written by Daniel Tait. The Chief Operating Officer of Energy Alabama, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization accelerating Alabama’s transition to sustainable energy through education, advocacy, and technical assistance. Mr. Tait is also a Research and Communications Manager for the Energy and Policy Institute covering the Southeast.

In these polarized times, it’s not often you find an issue that unites anyone. But here in Alabama (and, for that matter, all across the region), energy freedom is something EVERYONE can agree on. And with good reason.

All across the political spectrum, Alabamians can finally see eye-to-eye on something. Energy freedom – that is, the freedom to choose how your electricity is produced – is a GREAT thing! 

It’s easy to understand why. Energy freedom means more choice for consumers and greater competition among providers. It means more renewables in your energy mix, which in turn means cleaner, more sustainable energy for everyone. And of course, it means more solar. Much more solar.

Photo credit: Eagle Solar & Light

At Energy Alabama, we’re strong proponents of solar and its many, many virtues. In addition to creating jobs and stimulating the economy, solar power produces zero emissions and is 100% renewable. We’re also strong proponents of the idea that anyone who wants to utilize these benefits should have the freedom to do so – without any burdensome taxes or unfair government interference.

Who wouldn’t agree with that?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that in Alabama. That’s because Alabama Power, a utility that serves a huge part of our state, charges a special tax on solar – currently $5 per kW per month. If you’re a solar generator, that means you’re losing up to 50% of your profits before you even generate a single watt of electricity. How is that fair?

Oppose Alabama’s unfair tax on the sun. Click here to sign the petition.

This solar tax is the most egregious charge on solar we’ve found by any regulated utility in the country. It holds back our state’s solar progress by discouraging solar investments and discriminating against people who simply want to save money and control their energy costs. 

Alabama Power will tell you it’s a reasonable cost to serve solar customers, but don’t buy it. This unfair tax infringes on customers’ rights to be fairly charged based on the cost to provide them power. If it were fair, Alabama Power would have real numbers to back up its position and other utilities all across would follow suit. But, neither of those have happened. 

To put it simply, Alabama Power’s solar tax unfairly singles out solar homes and business. It’s obviously wrong, but there is a better way.

Which brings us back to energy freedom. Now, some might be tempted to think of energy freedom and solar power as progressive causes. But solar power and energy freedom don’t belong to any particular political ideology. After all, who doesn’t like clean, dependable, infinitely renewable energy?

In fact, a recent poll from WPA Intelligence shows that Alabama’s political conservatives strongly support energy freedom. To wit:

  • Nearly two-thirds (!) of Alabama Republican primary voters support passing legislation that would give consumers more choice in determining how their electricity is produced. This means more options like solar and other renewables. (More energy options = happier people!)
  • A majority think it is important to have the choice to buy power from a company that uses more renewable energy sources. (We agree!)
  • Two-out-of-three support the development of clean energy like solar and wind in Alabama. (Awesome!)
  • And finally, more than half would support passing legislation that would give consumers more freedom to control their energy usage

The people have spoken, and they’re telling legislators that they want more choice. Unfortunately, policies like Alabama Power’s solar tax limit choice by removing any financial incentive to go solar. Who wants that? (Besides the fat cats at Alabama Power, that is…)

It’s simple. The people of Alabama believe in freedom of choice, as well as the power of free markets. In a time when nobody can agree on anything, pretty much EVERYONE in Alabama wants energy freedom. Literally, the only group that doesn’t want this is the utilities. 

And it’s not just Alabama. Over in South Carolina, the Energy Freedom Act was signed into law in May of 2019. (And it passed both the statehouse and senate unanimously.) This forward-looking legislation gives ratepayers greater choice in their energy consumption and requires utilities to plan for more solar and distributed energy resources in their integrated resources plans. (By the way, Alabama Power’s integrated resource plan is mostly hidden behind redactions to keep it from public view.)

More and more people all across the South are recognizing that they should have a voice in how their energy is produced – and that the playing field really ought to be level.

Alabamians should be paid fairly for solar they generate.

Which brings us back to our great state. Here in Alabama, the playing field is not level. One of the state’s major utilities has decided to penalize anyone who wants to generate solar power on their own property. Everybody knows it’s wrong, and now it’s time to fight back.

The fight on this front has been long and difficult. In response to complaints filed with the Alabama Public Service Commission in April of 2018, Alabama Power actually proposed to increase the solar tax. But thanks to the efforts of dedicated activists across the state, we won the chance to have a public hearing. 

But the fight is far from finished. Now that we finally have our public hearing, we need as many voices as possible to join together against burdensome taxes and unfair government interference. That’s why Energy Alabama – in conjunction with like-minded people across the state – is asking everyone to sign a petition to let the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) know that you support energy freedom in Alabama – and you oppose Alabama Power’s unfair tax on the sun.

Together, we can make a real difference in this state. We already know energy freedom is an issue that everyone can agree on. Now it’s time to speak truth to power!

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