Eversource Energy customers who install new solar or wind installations on their property after December 31 of this year will face higher monthly charges under a ruling last week by the state Department of Public Utilities.
The DPU approved a rate hike for Eversource at the end of November, but put off ruling on how the company’s rates should be designed and implemented until Friday. As part of the Friday ruling, the DPU sided with Eversource in ruling that customers who erect solar or wind installations on their property and feed power into the grid have not been paying their fair share of the grid’s upkeep costs.
Customers are typically charged for the number of kilowatt hours they use, but those with solar panels on their roof often feed more power into the grid than they use. The customers receive net metering payments for the power they feed into the grid, reducing their payments to Eversource significantly.
In its filing with the DPU, Eversource said it paid out $67 million in net metering credits to Massachusetts customers in 2016. The DPU ruling said Eversource incurs costs in serving the net metering customers that are not offset by payments from those customers. As a result, Eversource has been assessing its entire customer base for the costs not collected from net metering customers, an estimated $8.5 million.
“The department concedes that customers taking net metering services directly receive the benefits of the net metering system,” the DPU said in its ruling. “The costs of net metering, however, are borne by all electric customers, whether or not they receive net metering credits. Consequently, there is a transfer of costs rooted in the net metering system.”
The DPU said customers who start producing energy on their property and receive net metering payments after December 31 must pay a higher monthly customer charge and a new demand charge reflecting their peak demand from the grid.
Mark LeBel, a staff attorney at the Acadia Center, said the new demand charge on residential customers will be the first of its kind in the nation. He and other enviromental advocates said the new charges will discourage solar installations and inhibit the state’s shift to renewable energy sources.
Michael Durand, a spokesman for Eversource, said the utility is still reading through the massive DPU decision and will release customer rate estimates in the coming days. He noted the company has decided to use money from the recently passed corporate tax cut to reduce consumer bills.
The Department of Public Utilities approved the new charge to make sure that customers with solar who feed power into the grid are paying their fair share of the grid’s cost.
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