Updated September 1, 2020:
Nearly a year after the groups filed a motion requesting a hearing, the Commission held a hearing in November 2019, which drew such a large crowd that many attendees had to stand in the aisles or the adjoining room to hear testimony.
Neither Alabama Power attorneys nor the Commission staff asked any questions of the plaintiffs’ expert witness.
The administrative law judge adjourned the hearing announcing that a decision would be issued during a regularly scheduled meeting, and would be made public on the agenda in advance.
As originally posted:
On Thursday, November 21, the Alabama Public Service Commission will hold a hearing requested by Gasp, represented by SELC, and private plaintiffs, represented by Ragsdale, LLC, about Alabama Power’s unnecessary and discriminatory monthly fee on solar power customers and the utility’s attempt to increase that fee. The hearing will be open to the public interested in learning more about the challenge, but only the parties involved in the legal challenge will testify.
Currently one of the highest backup fees, or “standby charges” of any regulated utility nationwide, Alabama Power’s monthly charge has impeded the state’s solar progress over the past six years.
“Alabama Power’s unwarranted monthly fee is limiting the rights of Alabama homeowners and businesses to create solar power on their own properties and reduce their electricity bills,” said Keith Johnston, managing attorney for SELC’s Birmingham office. “By removing this fee, Alabama can begin to realize its true clean energy potential and the economic growth, along with the bill relief and energy choice, that comes with it.”
Based on the size of a homeowner’s solar system, the $5 per kilowatt monthly fee is added on top of other charges that these customers continue to pay each month to Alabama Power. For example, for a 5 kilowatt solar array, this charge results in an additional $300 charge per year, slashing customers’ average savings from solar in half.
The charge also puts a huge dent in customers’ return-on-investment in a residential solar system. Using a 5 kilowatt system as an example, the fees could add up to about $9,000 over the lifetime of an average system (30 years) and greatly increase the payback period for the homeowner’s investment.
After the groups filed their initial challenge in April 2018, Alabama Power responded with a proposal to raise the fee. SELC and Ragsdale, LLC intervened in that proposal on behalf of clients as well.
SELC and our partners are arguing that solar customers should not be punished by having to continue to pay this discriminatory fee, unless and until, Alabama Power can actually justify it.
“We feel it’s critically important that we can argue our case that Alabama Power’s solar standby charge is unjust, unlawful, unfair, and discriminatory,” Gasp executive director Michael Hansen recently told AL.com. "The people of Alabama deserve a public and transparent process.”
The hearing will be held Nov. 21 at 9 a.m. at the Public Service Commission’s hearing room in Montgomery and is open for the public to attend.
Sign Gasp’s petition to show you support solar for all Alabamians by opposing the fee.