The State Corporation Commission has okayed a Dominion Virginia Power plan under which it can charge residential customers a “standby” fee if they generate their own electricity.
On Wednesday, the SCC approved a standby charge methodology that allows the company to recover its transmission and distribution costs because those customers still make use of the electric grid.
The standby charges will apply to customers owning and operating generation systems of 10 kilowatts or more. The Virginia General Assembly authorized the charges during its 2011 session.
Environmental and alternative energy industry groups oppose standby charges.
“Charging its green-minded customers upwards of $60 per month is both excessive and punitive,” J.R. Tolbert, assistant director of Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter, said in a statement. “Generating electricity from renewable sources, in this case solar panels installed on rooftops, is to be encouraged, not punished. Once again, Dominion is allowed to be the bully for its bottom line.”
The Solar Industries Association, a trade group for manufacturers, installers and suppliers of solar systems, also had challenged the standby charge plan. The group said the charges would penalize the few state residents using solar power and would discourage investment in its industry.
The SCC decided that the grid must be available to deliver power to “net-metered” customers when their own generation systems are not producing electricity. Net-metered customers typically receive retail credit for at least a portion of the electricity they generate.
In approving the standby methodology, the SCC said in its final order that “the evidence in this record indicates that any avoided cost benefits provided by customer-generators, at least in terms of the transmission and distribution grid, are insufficient to pay for their proportionate share of the grid.”
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