- The Washington Electric Co-op (WEC) wants Vermont regulators to add a fixed customer charge and a $0.04 per kilowatt-hour grid service fee to net metered customers’ electricity bills and allow the utility to retain those customers renewable energy credits, all to cover infrastructure costs the utility says solar owners who zero out their bills pass on to other customers.
- Renewables advocates argue fees would make it harder for residents to finance solar because, if the Vermont Public Service Board approves the utility’s proposal, it would make the cost of solar higher, even with the state’s $0.20 per kilowatt-hour solar adder, than the typical Washington Electric customer’s electricity bill.
- Because Vermont’s peak demand is in winter when solar is less available, the cost-benefit equation for solar differs from other states where summer peak shaving makes it more valuable, and that shift in the value proposition makes Vermont’s net metering program costly for the co-op, necessitating the new charge and fee to make it cost-neutral, according to a utility spokesperson.
Utilities, regulators, and legislators around the country have proposed similar extra charges for solar owners which they argue cover infrastructure costs and which solar advocates claim help make up for utility revenues lost to net metered solar.
Vermont recently expanded its net metering program for rooftop and backyard solar, wind and other renewables and committed to redesigning the program by 2017.
Because a utility can design its own net metering program if its power mix qualifies, WEC has committed to purchasing 20,000 renewable energy credits, and some renewables advocates believe the utility should use the redesign to deal with the winter peak, perhaps by providing an incentive for small-scale wind power.
In other parts of the proposal, WEC would institute home energy efficiency audits for households that use 750 kilowatt-hours or more per month and a 3.78% rate increase.