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Oklahoma Approves Surcharge for Rooftop Solar

State lawmakers pass a bill allowing extra charges to homeowners with PV systems, but the rate has not been determined

A new surcharge is on the way. Oklahoma homeowners who install solar panels or small wind turbines will be subject to a new surcharge by the end of 2015.
Image Credit: Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Oklahoma residents who install small wind turbines or photovoltaic panels will be paying a new surcharge beginning in 2015, thanks to a bill that zipped through the state legislature and was headed to Governor Mary Fallin for a signature. called the measure “the first complete defeat for solar advocates” in their efforts to prevent electric utilities from recouping money they claim they’re losing to distributed generation (DG).

The bill allows electric utilities to create a new class of ratepayers, those with solar or wind systems, but the amount of the surcharge has yet to be determined by regulators. It is to be in place by the end of next year and will affect only new installations, not those already in place. Nor will it affect customers who get their power from cooperatives that are not regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

There were only five votes against the bill in the House of Representatives and no debate when it passed on April 14. The Senate had already approved it. The Republican governor is expected to sign the bill.

In a familiar split, Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company and Public Service Company of Oklahoma lined up in favor of the bill while renewable energy advocates and environmentalists opposed it.

It “levels the playing field,” utility says

The debate had a familiar ring; a utility spokesman argued the surcharge would prevent customers without solar or wind systems from subsidizing those who do.

“It levels the playing field where one customer was subsidizing another,” a spokesman for one utility told The Oklahoman. “This neither unfairly advantages or disadvantages a class of customers.”

This is essentially the same argument that utilities around the country have made as distributed energy grows more common and customers buy less electricity.

Arizona regulators approved a surcharge of 70 cents per kilowatt of capacity that took effect at the start of the year, and Maine’s largest electric utility, Central Maine Power Company, also has proposed a surcharge. That plan is still under review by the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

But in Vermont, the state legislature recently passed a measure that will allow more homeowners to get paid for the electricity they generate on their residential solar and wind systems. And reports that utilities around the country have lost as many as ten of these surcharge debates.


  1. Eric Sandeen | | #1

    I wonder...
    Will they add surcharges for homes with passive solar, LED lighting, and energy star appliances as well? I mean, if you aren't taking as much electricity off the grid as your neighbor, you're clearly not doing your part, and are a shameful freeloader.

  2. Rock Termini | | #2

    Oklahoma Approves Surcharges for Solar Systems
    Following up on Eric Sandeen's comment . . . I heat with wood - the natural gas company has never laid pipelines on our hill, so I don't use gas to heat or electricity to run a forced air fan or the hydronic pump (we have a boiler installed by previous owner, but it burns oil) - what should I expect? I have LED lights everywhere, and all my incandescent bulbs have been replaced by CFLs. When will the politicians, few of whom understand any science (am I wrong, but isn't Oklahoma one of those states that wants evolution taught as an alternate theory to creation?), understand there are real limits in the real world. USDA just sent me a press release on alternative agricultural practices to stop soil loss. May seem far afield from solar energy, but physics rules all systems, and the mind set that thinks conservation is a nice idea but not something to base a national energy policy on just doesn't grasp the dice we are rolling.

  3. Tim Slager | | #3

    Big Gas & Oil Lobby?
    I understand not crediting homewoners at a premium price for electricity put back into the grid. But a surcharge? Oklahoma has a reputation for being cozy with big oil and gas, but this seems pretty crazy. Maybe we need more details?

    Maybe they want to motivate folks to just get off the grid entirely. Could work.

  4. Russell Donnelly | | #4

    minnesota value of solar
    Not at all clear whether those putting up solar are taking from the utility or giving more than reimbursed.In minnesota after a long process the conclusion seemed to be that putting up solar aided the utility more than they were reimbursed-by supplying electricity during the peak hours,by allowing utility to delay new plant construction,etc.What is clear is that the utilities are fighting a losing I typing on a typewriter now or a keyboard?As solar prices keep on declining,as people buy Nests,LEDs,etc they will use less and less electricity.Some may buy evs,and use more at first,but the next purchase after an ev is often solar.Charge solar customers and around the bend will come storage.One neighbor installs solar,the neighbor next door doesn't ask why that guy is getting a tax break,he asks why is his roof different?Next comes community solar and wind gardens.Solar on churches,etc.good luck to the utility in Oklahoma charging them.

  5. Eric Sandeen | | #5

    And the governor seems to have neutered it
    Here is the signing statement / executive order.

  6. Russ Finley | | #6

    It's fair that we solar enthusiasts pay our share of grid use
    Our solar is distributed on the grid. Somebody has to pay to maintain it. Think of the grid as a road system. My EV pays no gas tax so they gave us a surcharge to pay for our share of road maintenance. Solar removes the fuel bill part of your utility, but not the grid use part. Read:

  7. Eric Sandeen | | #7

    Paying fair share
    Hate to re-hash old arguments about the value of solar, but at least here in MN, to simply be connected to the grid, whether or not I use anything, there's an $8/month charge. To have a solar meter, there's another $3/month charge. So as a solar customer I'm already paying over $130/year for nothing but a connection to the grid, which one would hope goes towards maintaining it, even if I don't use any fuel (which, incidentally, I still do).

    (And, TBH, if the utility ties fixed costs like grid upkeep to variable costs like fuel and per-kWh charges, that sounds like they're Doing It Wrong).

    The more nuanced arguments include the actual benefits I may provide to the grid when my solar is pushing surplus energy to my neighbors, and the recent MN Value of Solar Tariff calculations seem to support that argument, as well.

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