Georgia utility should treat solar customers fairly
Georgia’s solar industry has seen impressive growth in recent years, providing benefits to Georgians statewide in the form of jobs, reduced energy costs, and energy independence.
But despite the success of large-scale solar development, there are still barriers preventing Georgia’s rooftop solar market from taking off. Nearly two years after the state’s Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015 passed, some municipal utilities and electric member cooperatives in the Peach State have imposed anti-solar fees that cost a typical solar customer hundreds of dollars a year.
One recent example is Central Georgia EMC, a small utility based in Jackson, Georgia, where customers who install solar panels at their homes and businesses were suddenly hit with a punitive tax. As a result, homeowners with an average-sized solar system will rack up nearly $400 in annual charges each year before consuming any electricity.
Below is an excerpt from a letter to the editor that ran in the Macon Telegraph over the weekend from Reverend Kate McGregor Mosley, Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, in response to Central Georgia EMC’s punitive charge.
On Earth Day we pause to reflect on our responsibility to be good stewards of our planet. For many people that means having the freedom to make moral choices about what we consume and how we consume it.
Unfortunately in some Georgia communities it’s getting harder to make this moral choice. Because local utilities feel threatened by solar’s emergence as a viable choice for their customers, some are imposing fees that penalize homes, businesses and churches for investing in solar.
Central Georgia EMC recently instituted such a fee without any prior warning to its members. The charge claws back up to 106 percent of the savings customers would otherwise reap from their solar investment.
The tax adds up to $12,000 to the cost of the solar system over its 30-year life, more than the cost of the system itself.
Anti-member charges like these hurt Georgia’s emerging solar market, but more fundamentally, they thwart our ability to follow our conscience as consumers of electrons.
Consumers have the right to self-generate from clean sources and to be protected from unfair penalties when they do so. Utilities like Central Georgia EMC should remember that they were created to serve the public good, not to undermine it.
We urge utilities like Central Georgia EMC to honor their customers’ moral commitments to a cleaner planet. They should treat solar customers fairly, allowing such customers to make choices that are good for their pocketbooks and for Georgia as a whole, but also fulfill their duty to lighten the burden on God’s creation.