Georgia power proposed an average $22 per month tariff on some new residential solar systems at a recent hearing of the Georgia Public Service Commission. The tariff, essentially a tax, would apply to solar systems that aren’t part of a Georgia Power solar program. Read more in a report by WABE.
Georgia Power officials, arguing for the tariff, said that while the company loses revenues when customers switch to solar, the company’s cost to maintain the electric grid stays the same. The company worries about shifting that cost to customers who don’t use solar.
Customers who decide to use less energy by installing more efficient appliances also cause Georgia Power to lose revenue while the cost to maintain the grid stays the same, right? Georgia Power says that solar users are different, though, because they’re using a similar amount of energy, just shifting to a different source. At least, that’s how the WABE report seems to characterize the company’s position, which makes the tariff seem like a punishment for using a different source of energy.
It’s no secret that governments use taxes to try to influence people’s behavior. Consider everything from “sin” taxes on cigarettes to the estate tax and even Obamacare. I think it’s probably fair to say that the behavior Georgia Power cares most about is the behavior of Georgia Power’s bank account, but is the company hoping to alter the behavior of would-be solar power users?
Most homes with solar arrays are also connected to the local power grid because most home solar installations don’t provide enough energy to fuel a typical home’s needs. When those homes need more electricity than they produce, they get it from the grid. That power is metered, and the homeowners are charged for it. I don’t understand why they need to be charged for more than what they’re using because they also use solar power.