SC regulatory board rules in favor of utility customers
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Electric utility customers will continue to have choices for investing in solar to achieve energy freedom after a pair of rulings today from the state’s Public Service Commission.
The two rulings encompassed:
- Dominion Energy’s request to charge its solar customers a suite of new exorbitant fees and charges while reducing the compensation that customers receive for supplying clean power to the grid
- The “generic docket,” which determines, among other things, how the value of rooftop solar power is determined, and how utility requests comport with the Energy Freedom Act
The PSC rejected requests from Dominion Energy and the Office of Regulatory Staff to hike solar fees and impose new charges on customers to a level that would put rooftop solar out of reach for most households. The commission instead adopted the joint proposal put forward by Coastal Conservation League, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Upstate Forever along with Vote Solar, the NC Sustainable Energy Association, and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The new Solar Choice tariff will be based on Dominion’s existing Time of Use rate and will not impose steep new fees or charges on customers who choose to invest in rooftop solar after May 31. The ruling, which affects only Dominion customers, means solar power will remain a viable option in the utility’s territory, and will allow the solar industry to continue growing.
“It’s very clear that we are at an inflection point,” said Shelley Robbins with Upstate Forever. “We can move forward and embrace clean energy growth with steady or falling prices, job creation, and a cleaner environment, or we can fall behind by continuing our twisted love affair with fossil fuels, unstable prices, and the specter of stranded assets. By embracing the former, the PSC has certified South Carolina as a leader on these issues.”
Eddy Moore, of the Coastal Conservation League, added: “Thankfully, today’s decision will support the growing rooftop solar market for Dominion Energy customers, without the high fees Dominion tried to impose. This is a sign that the Energy Freedom Act of 2019 is working and the state legislature and commissioners deserve a lot of credit.”
“The commission’s ruling helps ensure fair compensation for solar customers and will sustain this important segment of South Carolina’s clean energy job market,” said Bryan Jacob, the solar program director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “This was one of the most complex aspects deriving from the Energy Freedom Act and SACE appreciates the Commission’s thoughtful approach in establishing solar choice metering.”
In the “generic docket,” commissioners decided the general notion from utilities like Dominion Energy that solar power is not a valuable commodity when compared to electricity from fossil-fuel plants is misguided. The commission’s ruling essentially requires utilities to “do their homework” when determining how to value the growing amount of solar energy in the state, said David Neal, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“This ruling affects the entire state, and it recognizes rooftop solar energy has real value to customers,” Neal said. “We know solar energy is valuable not just to customers who use it to save money on their monthly bills, but to the thousands of workers who provide solar energy and to all customers who benefit from rooftop solar’s output on the grid, particularly during summer peak times when it costs the utility the most to generate and transmit electricity. Private investment in solar helps to reduce the utility’s costs to serve customers over the entire lifetime of the system—at least 20 years.”