A decision in the Georgia Power rate case last week failed to provide age-appropriate policy and will ensure Georgia remains a bottom-10 state for rooftop solar.
Bryan Jacob | December 26, 2022
My wife and I have 3 kids, all in their 20s now; they each drive cars. But when they were young, they rode tricycles; then bicycles with training wheels, then without. We even had a small motorcycle that they rode before maturing to automobiles.
The point is, tricycles are appropriate for kids at a certain point in their development — just like net metering is the appropriate pol icy construct for rooftop solar in Georgia right now. The fact that California, or Hawaii, or even South Carolina have evolved to a subsequent scheme shouldn’t have deprived Georgians of net metering. Each of those states have rooftop solar penetrations much higher than Georgia.
However, in the Georgia Power rate case just concluded last week, the utility convinced the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) that, even though the rooftop solar penetration in Georgia is currently super low (0.2%), unless the PSC took decisive action now, Georgia might quickly experience the “problems” they’re having in California. So rather than reinstating the “monthly netting” program for rooftop solar that had been successfully pilot tested after the 2019 rate case, the PSC determined that Georgia Power needs to jump directly to a “net billing” construct where excess generation is only credited at
avoided cost plus 4 cents — in other words, only about half the retail rate those same customers pay when electricity is flowing in rather than out.
This is somewhat like a mom wanting to get a tricycle for their 3-year old but the dad convinces her that the kid will
eventually need a different mode of transportation — arguing that it would be irresponsible to provide what s/he currently needs.
Even a witness that testified for Georgia Power in 2019
against net metering has recently “ reformed” his views on the subject (Sep/2022) and now says “I also believe that states where solar deployment is in the early stages, and where less than 5% of customers have deployed solar roofs are at a very different stage of the game and should stick with NEM [Net Energy Metering] in its current form.”
Perhaps it goes without saying, Georgia Power did not bring Dr. Faruqui back as an expert witness this year.
SACE and Southface jointly intervened in this rate case and sponsored testimony of two expert witnesses on this subject:
Dr. Marilyn Brown and Alden Hathaway. (Dr. Brown had raised this rooftop solar issue in the Integrated Resource Plan earlier in the year, as well.). Other intervenors provided compelling testimony about rooftop solar, too.
Overall the administrative record was heavily populated in favor of reinstating monthly netting. So you can imagine how disappointed we were when the Commission approved something else. It may not constitute a lump of coal in our stocking, but it certainly wasn’t a tricycle either.
You can read the joint statement from SACE & Southface
here which includes the following excerpt:
“The Georgia Public Service Commission missed a unique opportunity to chart a lower-cost future for Georgians. The Commission’s fact-free approach allows the Company to continue to ignore customers who want to invest their own money in low-cost resources like rooftop solar. It does little to nothing to help hard-working families and leaves customers on the hook for unaffordable and escalating power bills.”
Incidentally, even what was pilot tested in Georgia wasn’t true “net metering” — where excess kWh credits at the end of billing period are carried forward to the next billing cycle. The “monthly netting” process only nets within the billing period and the utility cashes out the credits at the end of the cycle. Georgia Power has never even tried true net metering. And this rate case permits Georgia Power to continue something that’s even worse — “instantaneous netting” (which is a nebulous term that Georgia Power may have been the first utility to use).
P.S., “netting” generally involves subtracting one number from another. If any of our readers can help me understand what is “netted” in this instantaneous approach, I would appreciate it.