Solar Win for Tennessee Homeowners as Kingsport Power Drops Proposed Demand Charge
Nashville, TN—Today the Tennessee Regulatory Authority approved a settlement in which Kingsport Power dropped its proposal to enact a burdensome demand charge for solar customers. The proposal had attracted strong opposition due to concerns that the excessively high charge would unfairly punish solar customers and stamp out solar growth.
Hailed as an important step in Tennessee for consumer choice and clean energy markets, TRA’s approval of the parties’ agreement 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 Amanda Garcia, attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Nashville office. “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, 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 to shut down this program by the end of 2016 and replace it with a program that would require solar customers to pay the demand charge.
The proposed charge and changes to Kingsport Power’s net metering program were scheduled to be reviewed by the Tennessee Regulatory Agency, but late last week the parties filed a settlement. Several groups had filed challenges to the proposal. SELC, which works on solar issues across the Southeast, had filed comments in support of intervening parties Tennessee Solar Energy Industry Association, The Alliance for Solar Choice, and the Energy Freedom Coalition of America.
As solar growth and jobs have exploded across the country as prices drop, some utilities have turned to punitive demand charges. “This is a victory not only for homeowners in Kingsport, but also for solar choice in Tennessee,” said Garcia.