DPU oks new fees on solar, wind installations

DPU oks new fees on solar, wind installations

Eversource: Net metering customers not paying their fair share

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.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

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.

  • Ken Egnaczak

    OK, so how much is this “grid use fee” going to be ?? If we are talking $100 per year it is a deal to have the reliability of the grid when you solar PV isn’t producing electricity……..like at night, cloudy days and much of the winter. They should have negotiated an end to net metering caps for this “grid use fee” but it looks like that opportunity is gone.

  • Andrew

    They (Eversource) are getting 56 million in corporate tax cut under new tax law passed by congress and they said they theoretically lost out on 8 million in revenue from power producers (specifically home solar) since they make some of their own electricity. They forgot to say that these customers pay thousands to be a power producer and pay a monthly connection fee minimum just like everyone else – homeowners, powerplants, etc. So why would you single out homeowners? The plutocrats are threatened the people might not need them anymore or that their pile of cash is threatened. It’s a communist idea to think everyone has to pay the same even if they are more resourceful or motivated than others to become self sufficient. If we all stopped using electricity and still had to pay the minimum connection fee the utility companies could still afford to maintain the grid infrastructure. This is just a clever private tax to discourage solar and wind power from getting in the hands of those meddling homeowners. Don’t forget too that 15,000 jobs in MA could be wiped out by this. That is in solar alone, not including wind and others.