WASHINGTON CITY — An amendment to an ordinance regarding a net metering policy was tabled by the Washington City Council at its regular Wednesday meeting, when council members determined the subject needed further discussion and understanding during a work meeting before a decision could be made.
The ordinance, which was adopted in 2000, consists of a net metering policy for the citizens to use city electricity, and includes a rebate agreement to customers who have had solar power installed within their home, as well as have the use of city electricity.
Power Department Director Kelly Carlson requested an amended removal of the rebate program as well as adding a line about customers requesting city approval when wanting additional services such as another solar panel or electricity in addition to solar within their home.
The ordinance was created to encourage people to install solar and provide a rebate of $3,000 from city power, $2,000 from the state and 35 percent of the actual installment cost from the federal government. This rebate served as financial leverage for the cost of the solar installation. In 2000, installation of solar power cost approximately $48,000, but has decreased to $8,300.
“I think we are in a position that we don’t need to provide the incentive to provide installations around the city,” Carlson said. “It might slow a few people down, but realistically, those that have solar installed, can afford it anyway so they could just be taking advantage of the rebate programs here.”
Also because solar power doesn’t often last and work through the night, due to it’s reliability on charging from the sunlight, residents need regular electricity in addition to solar.
Another problem Carlson said city power is facing is fixed costs due to solar power not being used during the day. He said the money being used as a rebate could be better utilized to pay the debt of those fixed costs. He said a net metering policy is required by state with an offer of pay back to the customers, but a rebate program is not required. The rebate was done by city choice.
City Council members and staff shared their concerns about taking the full rebate program away and also knowing what an impact changing the ordinance would do to current and future solar power customers.
“The challenge, of course, Kelly’s right, solar works fantastic when the sun is done shining, but there is still an expectation that power won’t be generated to their home when the sun isn’t shining,” City Manager Roger Carter said. “That’s where your infrastructure comes in. So we have to still keep on the grid, we still have to provide electricity to them and that still results in fixed costs.”
The policy within the ordinance needs improvement, City Councilman Thad Seegmiller said, but what type of improvement is still uncertain.
The council and staff determined a workshop will present the amendment request in more depth for better understating of solar power on Dec. 9 during a work meeting. This would allow for more understanding and questions answered to clarify all information regarding the ordinance change.
“We want to make sure that we understand and have the chance to discuss and really hash it out before we make a big decision on an ordinance,” Councilman Kress Staheli said.
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