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September 01, 2020 10:27am
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Rooftop solar takes another hit

Nearly a week after California regulators voted to slash compensation for rooftop solar customers, the industry suffered another blow, this time in Georgia.

It’s been a tough week for the rooftop solar industry.

Nearly a week after California regulators voted to slash compensation for rooftop solar customers, the industry suffered another blow, this time in Georgia.

The Georgia Public Service Commission approved Georgia Power Company’s plan to raise power rates by $1.8 billion or 12% over three years.

Commissioners agreed that Georgia Power will pay 6.68 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity generated by owners of rooftop solar panels. But panel owners will only get a credit after paying retail rates for electricity taken from the grid.

GO DEEPER: Vote Solar executive director Sachu Constantine joined the Factor This! podcast to break down the latest in the fight to save rooftop solar in California. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

That’s different than a 5,000-unit net metering program that allows self-generated power to be subtracted from total usage, better financially for customers. Georgia Power says that plan, which will be grandfathered but not let in new customers, unfairly shifts costs to customers who don’t have panels. 

GPC will also impose a $100 interconnection fee for new solar customers, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said in a statement following the vote.

“We know that GPC will continue to fight fair compensation rates for rooftop solar, but we are particularly disappointed that the PSC let them get away with it,” said Kevin Lucas, SEIA’s senior director of utility regulation and policy. “The Commissioners had all the information and data they needed to expand the pilot monthly netting program and spur Georgia’s rooftop solar market, but they simply chose not to do so. Frustratingly, the PSC’s failure to expand the pilot program and only offer a temporary increase for exported energy will keep the state’s rooftop solar sector mired at the bottom of the national rankings.”

SEIA’s Georgia chapter said the pilot program drove a 300% increase in new rooftop solar applications in less than a year.

Georgia Power says residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity will see their bills go up by $3.60 a month in January. That’s an increase of 2.8% over the $128 such customers now pay. Increases of roughly 4.5% would follow in both 2024 and 2025, pushing bills to around $144 a month.

Those won’t be the only increases for customers. Georgia Power is likely to ask the commission early next year to let it charge its 2.7 million customers more to cover higher natural gas costs. The commission has already approved an increase when the third nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle begins generating electricity, also likely early next year. And a larger Vogtle-related increase would come when the fourth reactor is finished, possibly in 2024.

This story includes reporting from the Associated Press

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