Just a few months after Massachusetts solar users fought off an attempt by their utility to slap them with new fees just for using solar, a South Carolina utility is pushing for the same. To Californians: we have escaped the worst of this kind of thing because we fought back hard. In other words, stay vigilant and keep standing up for your solar rights.
To be clear, we're supportive of solar users paying their fair share of the cost of maintaining the grid. The problem is when utilities try to charge more than that, while falsely claiming that rooftop solar users increase costs for other ratepayers.
In the case of South Carolina, the behemoth Duke Energy is proposing a an increase of over 200% on the "fixed demand charge". If it goes through, South Caolina solar users will pay almost $30/month just for having solar.
"Increasing fixed charges has been a tactic of utilities to claw back more revenue from its customers who install solar and/or to kill rooftop solar markets outright. What these charges mean under net metering is that when customers install solar they can only eliminate so much of their electric bill, as even if they wipe out their total usage the basic monthly charges remain. This in turn weakens the economics of rooftop solar and lengthens payback times of systems."
Massachusetts solar users successfully defeated a similar proposal a few months back.
Californians already pay a minimum bill of about $10/month. Utilities have in the past fought to make that sum larger. Pushback from solar users helped keep those larger increases at bay.
Next year, as we gear up to defend net metering from an expected attack by the utilities, we should also be vigilant of any additional efforts to slap solar owners with new fees.