Members of Colorado’s Intermountain Rural Electric Association who have installed photovoltaic (PV) systems won’t find much to like in a plan under consideration by the association’s board of directors.
A report from UtilityDive.com says that the proposal would reduce the reimbursement that owners of PV systems get for the electricity they sell from the retail rate of 12.3 cents per kilowatt hour to 6.5 cents per kWh, which is just above the co-op’s avoided cost of about 5 cents per kWh.
At the same time, the plan would see the introduction of an unusual demand charge for residential solar customers. On top of the standard $10 monthly service charge that all residential customers pay, customers with PV systems would pay another $7 per kW in the 15-minute period of highest electric use during the month. Demand charges are common for commercial and industrial customers, but not in residential rate plans.
The proposal, however, would reduce off-peak nighttime rates for customers with solar panels to 6.5 cents per kWh.
Number of solar customers is growing
The number of residential customers with PV systems is very small, but it’s increasing rapidly. There are some 600 solar customers today, and that is expected to grow to about 1,000 by the end of the year. At the end of 2014, there were 270.
The co-op’s concern, the web site reported, is that if more of its 145,000 customers begin producing more of their own power, the fixed costs of running and maintaining the grid will be shifted to customers who don’t have solar panels. This is the same argument that has pitted utilities against solar advocates around the country.
Advocates, however, say the co-op is undervaluing the benefits of solar power.
The board of directors had been scheduled to vote on the plan on June 1, but after a three-hour meeting attended by dozens of solar customers, the board instead tabled the plan to give members more time to study the issue, according to an article in the Denver Business Journal.
Rebecca Cantwell, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, said that the customers who showed up were adamantly opposed to the plan.
“The people who talked were absolutely passionate about how unfair this is and how they’re trying to make the world a better place and IREA is going against them,” she said.