Oklahoma City, OK, April 22, 2014– Some Oklahoma residents who install solar panels or wind turbines on their property in the future are likely to get hit with a surcharge on their utility bill. Senate Bill 1456 passed 83-5 on Monday, and awaits a signature from Governor Mary Fallon.
The bill, if signed, would authorize utility companies to charge higher base rates to “distributed generation” customers. Distributed generation customers are residents who generate enough electricity through their solar panels and turbines to sell excess energy back to the grid. The utility companies would apply for this authority through the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Oklahoma utility companies support this measure, explaining that the new rate increase will keep prices “fair”. Utility companies justified the bill by explaining that they lose money when they buy excess electricity from these residents and redistribute it to other customers. By creating a new class of customers and charging them an increased rate, they argue that utility companies will reclaim the money they’ve lost.
According to The Oklahoman newspaper, Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman Kathleen O’Shea said, “We’re not anti-solar or anti-wind or trying to slow this down, we’re just trying to keep it fair.”
Environmental groups are opposing the surcharge, and there are residents who are concerned about what the cost is going to ultimately be. There’s a possibility that the surcharge will discourage people from seeking to install solar energy on their property if SB 1456 is signed into law.
“It may affect our business, but we don’t know yet,” said Chris Gary, owner of Sun City Solar Energy in Oklahoma City. “Is it a killer for solar in Oklahoma? I don’t believe so, but when you open the door to a charge, that means it can always be increased. A speedbump could turn into a roadblock.”
The surcharge will not apply to customers who already have solar panels and turbines in place. It is currently unknown how much the surcharge will cost.
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