Alabama residents battling solar fee
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Homeowners and an environmental group are asking federal regulators to step in over Alabama Power’s fees on home solar panels, fees they argue purposely discourage the use of solar in the sun-rich state.
The petition filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asserts that the Alabama Public Service Commission violated federal law when it upheld the fees. It asks the federal commission to initiate an enforcement action against the state agency and direct it to order Alabama Power to sell electricity to solar customers at nondiscriminatory rates.
“By imposing one of the highest fees on solar customers of any regulated utility nationwide, Alabama Power’s unjustified solar charges are severely curtailing renewable energy development in our state, and other states are leaving Alabama behind because of it,” said Keith Johnston, director of Southern Environmental Law Center’s Alabama office.
“We are asking FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] to exercise its authority to enforce federal protections for solar customers in Alabama Power’s service territory,” he said.
The action comes after the Alabama agency last year upheld the fees and approved an increase.
Alabama Power charges a $5.41-per-kilowatt fee, based on the capacity of the home system, on people who use solar panels or other means to generate part of its own electricity. That amounts to a $27 monthly fee on a typical 5-kilowatt system.
The average solar panel setup for a home costs about $10,000, according to the Environmental Law Center. The fees add another $9,000 or so over the 30-year-lifespan of a system, dramatically increasing a homeowner’s cost and reducing any financial benefit they see from solar.
Alabama Power has maintained the fee is needed to maintain the infrastructure that will provide backup power to customers when the solar panels don’t provide enough energy.