City Council tables amendment to net metering policy ordinance

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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  • Walter November 13, 2014 at 8:41 am

    “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.

    Is it me, or is this just plain gibberish? (or a bad mis-quote?)

  • Pheo November 13, 2014 at 8:45 am

    I don’t know why municipalities struggle so much with this concept. As someone who is getting ready to install solar on my home, I fully expect to pay the fair costs associated with being attached to the grid. The fair answer is to charge every customer a fair fee for what it costs to be attached to the grid and then have a usage charge (which should now be lower per kwh) on top. Problem solved.

    • Hunter November 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      This article is about an installation rebate…not any kind of fee associated with being connected to the grid. Washington has a net metering program in place where you pay for the power you use and receive credit for what you produce. The rebate here was for installing panels…nothing to do with usage costs.

  • Notagain November 13, 2014 at 9:17 am

    ‘Now hear my words, if you like your doctor………..your promised incentives, you can keep it’. Stay tuned, Roger Rabbit and crew are working on it.

    • Hunter November 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      What are you talking about? This would have ZERO effect on current users (who have already received and cashed their checks). All they are considering is discontinuing a one-time installation rebate that in the past helped offset the high cost of getting a system. With the cost significantly lower now, in addition to the state and federal incentives, the city doesn’t need to continue to provide even more cash back as a rebate.

      • dancing infidel November 14, 2014 at 9:56 am

        HUNTER….it is obvious which Washington city department you work for.

  • TNT November 13, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Lets not forget the cost of building a new power plant compared to the $3000 per
    solar residential power provider. Since the city continues to grow, the Solar PV power plants offset an energy demand with zero emissions, zero impact.
    Also, lets be clear, the Washington City power is benefiting from Solar producers
    during the day since the Solar PV power goes to the grid to be consumed by paying customers.

  • Bender November 13, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    “because solar power doesn’t often last and work through the night”
    Bender guarantees that solar NEVER works through the night.

  • Zonkerb November 14, 2014 at 1:35 am

    I see the wishy washy Washington whackos are at it again

  • dancing infidel November 14, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Even the lower $8,300.00 installation fee is still to cost prohibitive for the average Washington city resident. So where is the benefit to the average resident? There is none. Raising electrical fees city wide will be the next request to come before the council…..just wait for it.

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