City Council approves new net metering fees for solar power users

St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, January 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George New

ST. GEORGE – Homes and businesses that utilize solar power in St. George will soon find a new fee attached to their utility bills following the City Council’s unanimous approval of a new fee policy related to the city’s net metering program.

Converting to solar power has become increasingly popular in recent years as households, businesses and communities look for ways to go green as well as save money on power costs.

Aiding in the drive for solar power is the declining cost of solar panels, which dropped about 19 percent in 2013 and continued dropping in 2014, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. On top of that, rebates are offered at the state and federal levels.

With a bulk of their power coming from solar power, utility customers with solar systems tend to pay much less than average utility users. As the city also buys back excess power generated by solar power users, further offsetting the costs, some city officials have started to wonder if regular customers aren’t, in effect, subsidizing solar users.

This is associated with our want to treat all of out customers fairly,” René Fleming, the city’s energy resources coordinator, said to the City Council Thursday with regard to the proposed fee system. “If they are generating a fair amount of their energy, that is great. It’s a renewable resource. We feel that’s a good thing.”

Each of the city’s 28,000 utility customers pay a base rate of $15.65. Additional charges are based on meter size and power usage.

Collectively, St. George’s solar power users produce about a megawatt of power and it’s continuing to grow, Fleming said.

Even though solar may act as the primary power source for those who use it, Fleming said, they also remain tied into the city’s utility system and use it as a back up as needed.

“We recognize that they still need full service from the utility (when) solar isn’t generating,” she said. “If it’s night cloudy, whatever, they need full service from the utility and we need to recover that cost of service.”

Under the new fee system, a home with a 1-3-kilowatt meter will be charged $2.25 per month for the power it uses.

Properties with meters of over 3 kilowatts but not more than 4 will be charged $8.61. Larger installations – primarily commercial and industrial ones – with 10 kilowatt meters will be charged up to $29.34 per month.

The city has credited solar power users for the excess power they generate, which is reflected on the following month’s utility bill. If this continues for a consecutive 12 months, the city issued a check for the amount of the kilowatt-hour credits at a rate of 4 cents per kilowatt hour.

As each new solar power installation produced its own rolling 12-month calendar for the customer, Fleming said, the increasing number of installs made it difficult for the city’s energy department to keep track.

“So what we’re proposing is, in December we look at all of our net meter accounts and if there are customers with a kilowatt hour credit in December, we’ll buy it back at the best available wholesale rate,” Fleming said.

After December, all solar accounts will be reset, allowing for a uniform calendar that will be easier for city staff to track and maintain.

I think it’s a good ordinance, a good policy,” Mayor Jon Pike said before the council adopted the new fee policy.

The city plans to provide educational workshops for residents interested in converting to solar power and the process involved, Fleming said.

Other business

The City Council approved issuing bonds when needed to fund up to $9 million towards projects that will then be repaid through RAP tax revenue over time. The city is beginning to receive its $1.2 million portion of the countywide sales tax allocated to recreation, arts and parks projects. Currently, expansion of pickleball courts in the Little Valley area is under construction and nearing completion. Other prospective projects have yet to be decided upon but may include improvements to the Sunbowl, a multi-use field for sports such as soccer, lacrosse and rugby, and a bike skills park, among others.

The purchase of a new SunTran bus was approved for $136,000. The new bus will be replacing one of the current, high-mileage buses while also providing additional accommodation for passengers with disabilities, as it features five spots for wheelchairs.

The council also repealed an ordinance that had made it illegal to ride bicycles on the sidewalk.

Ed. note: Fees on solar power reflect the monthly rate, not per kilowatt hour. The body of the text has been corrected to reflect this.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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23 Comments

  • wilbur September 25, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    I think the quoted amounts for power consumption are erroneous. $2.25 per KWh if you have a 1-3 KW meter?

    If this means you have, at most, a 3 KW array, and it’s cloudy, you pay $2.25 per KWh for city power.

    Since a typical home uses roughly 30 KWh per day, you are paying $67.50 per day for the power.

    Methinks Mr. Kessler has his facts or units crossed. At this sort of pricing, I’d rather go off the grid completely.

    • Mori Kessler Mori Kessler September 25, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      The fees above are for a monthly rate and not kilowatt per hour. This error has been corrected in the body of the text.

  • Pheo September 25, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    “Under the new fee system, a home with a 1-3-kilowatt meter will be charged $2.25 per kilowatt hour for the power it uses.”

    This can’t be right. The current city rate per kilowatt hour is about 9 cents.

    • Mori Kessler Mori Kessler September 25, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      The fees above are for a monthly rate and not kilowatt per hour. This error has been corrected in the body of the text.

  • linuxturtle September 25, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    I think the “per kilowatt hour” statements have got to be a misprint. A 4KW meter could easily use a couple thousand kilowatt-hours per month, and that would be a ridiculously prohibitive fee to impose. Is it a fixed monthly fee for the meter size instead? Could you maybe please link to the proposed new city ordinance, so we can see what it actually is?

    • Mori Kessler Mori Kessler September 25, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      The fees above are for a monthly rate and not kilowatt per hour. This error has been corrected in the body of the text.

  • Harold S. September 25, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    No matter how hard people try to save money and cut costs, the government will always get their cut by taxing this tax that.
    So sad, but so true.
    Tax his land, tax his bed, tax the table, at which he’s fed.
    Tax his tractor, tax his mule, teach him taxes Are the rule.
    Tax his work, tax his pay, he works for peanuts anyway!
    Tax his cow, tax his goat, tax his pants, tax his coat.
    Tax his ties, tax his shirt, tax his work, tax his dirt.
    Tax his tobacco, tax his drink, tax him if he tries to think.
    Tax his cigars, tax his beers, If he cries tax his tears.
    Tax his car, tax his gas, find other ways to tax his @ss.
    Tax all he has then let him know that you won’t be done till he has no dough.
    When he screams and hollers; then tax him some more, tax him till
    He’s good and sore.
    Then tax his coffin, tax his grave, tax the sod in Which he’s laid…
    Put these words Upon his tomb, ‘Taxes drove me to my doom…’
    When he’s gone, do not relax, its time to apply the inheritance tax.

    None of these taxes existed 100 years ago, & our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

    • wilbur September 25, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      yeah, well, we weren’t financing 100 million people on the dole

      • bobinrohnertpark September 27, 2015 at 9:00 pm

        Now we finance about five million on the Dow. Why not throw them in jail? And how about VW dole, if I cheated on my smog slip I would be without a car what is going to that dole lovely corpse? Say it loudly.

    • Dexter September 26, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      Wow. maybe if you just went back into your closet and came back out in about 40 years things will be better for you

  • fun bag September 25, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    honest to God these mormon republicans love to pound us hard with ‘tax this and tax that’ worse than any liberals i’ve ever encountered. mormons and right-wingers please enlighten me…

  • BIG GUY September 26, 2015 at 6:18 am

    These are fees, not taxes. The city is in the power business and must operate, maintain and administer its power distribution grid for everyone, including those with solar installations who need city power for more than half of each day. It’s that same grid that accepts and distributes roof-top solar power from private solar installations. Roof top solar reduces the amount of power that the city must buy from outside suppliers during peak daytime usage, but doesn’t lower grid distribution costs at all. Complain if you’d like about the amount of the fees but the city has real costs that everyone connected to its grid should share.

    • wilbur September 26, 2015 at 8:38 am

      most folks have no issue with that, only the details

    • tax nut September 30, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      “These are fees, not taxes.” Taxes are fees. There is no difference between a fee and a tax.

  • Dexter September 26, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Well if you’re broke. you can pay with farm animals.

    • Real Life September 27, 2015 at 12:10 am

      Farm animals? You know ALL about farm animals.

  • Dexter September 26, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    FUN BAG FOR PRESIDENT.!!!!

    • Real Life September 27, 2015 at 12:12 am

      DUMPSTER FOR, well, uh, I got nothin’. Cluck on.

  • Dexter September 27, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    REAL LIFE VILLAGE IDIOT for. uh. uh oh heck I give up… Cluck on

  • Dexter September 27, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    REAL LIFE doesn’t like me…. LOL.! well boo hoo……… Cluck cluck

    • Real Life September 27, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      I like you Dumpster, I just feel sorry for you. That’s all. Cluck, cluck.

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