Tennessee homeowners notch solar win as Kingsport Power drops proposed charge

By preserving net metering and not adding a punitive charge for rooftop solar users, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority’s approval of a settlement will advance the solar industry in the state and region. (© iStock)

Today the Tennessee Regulatory Authority approved a settlement in which Kingsport Power Company dropped its plan to enact a burdensome demand charge for solar customers. The charge had attracted strong opposition over concerns that the excessively high charge would unfairly punish solar customers and stunt solar growth.

Hailed as an important step for consumer choice and clean energy markets in Tennessee, TRA’s approval of the settlement, which was informed by public participation, stands in stark contrast to TVA’s decision last year—made without public input or state agency oversight—to slash its solar program.

“Today’s decision is welcome news for Kingsport Power customers, and it reflects state law protecting the rights of Tennessee families and businesses to choose solar power by prohibiting unreasonable charges meant to deter customers,” said Nashville-based Staff Attorney Amanda Garcia. “Kingsport homeowners had the chance to participate in this process and their voices were heard. TVA should take notes, instead of continuing to put up solar barriers.”

Kingsport Power currently has a net metering program, which is a billing system used by utilities around the country where solar customers pay the same electricity rates as all other customers and receive credit for the excess power they provide back to the grid. But in its recent petition to the Tennessee Regulatory Agency, the utility proposed shutting down this program by the end of 2016 and replacing it with a program that would require solar customers to pay a demand charge.

The proposed charge and changes to Kingsport Power’s net metering program were scheduled to be reviewed by the TRA, and several groups had filed challenges to the proposal. The parties filed a settlement for consideration late last week.  SELC, which works on solar issues across the Southeast, filed comments on the proposal in support of Tennessee Solar Energy Industry Association, The Alliance for Solar Choice, and the Energy Freedom Coalition of America. SELC also offered comments supporting the proposed settlement.

“Today’s announcement is a victory not only for homeowners in Kingsport, but also for solar choice in Tennessee,” said Garcia.

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