St. George City Council discusses new fee for solar power users

ST. GEORGE – Households and businesses that utilize solar power will likely be hit with a new fee at some point in the new year. In a work meeting Thursday, the St. George City Council gave verbal approval for the creation of a capacity fee related to issues with the city’s net metering policy.

Under the city’s policy, implemented in 2005, the city credits solar power users for the excess power they generate, which is reflected on their following month’s utility bill. If this continues for a consecutive 12 months, the city then issues a check for the amount of the kilowatt hour credit at a rate of 4 cents per kilowatt hour.

Currently, 63 of the city’s 28,000 power customers use solar power, generating about a megawatt of electrical power among them.

Rene Fleming, energy services coordinator for the City of St. George, told the City Council that while solar power users may not pay very much due to the current net metering program, they nonetheless still need and use city power as a backup.

“For various reasons, they still need the utility,” Fleming said.

However, there are also various costs that go along with operating and maintaining that utility that city officials feel may be getting subsidized by regular power customers in this case. As more people consider switching to solar, those costs may not be adequately covered, leaving the city in a sticky situation.

This is a huge concern for most utilities throughout the country,” Fleming said.

In consideration of this, she said, the city’s Energy Services Department is taking proactive steps in regard to the situation before it gets out of hand.

Currently, anyone connected to the city’s grid pays a $15.65 base rate. To help cover a solar power user’s portion of the utility costs, Fleming recommended that the city charge a capacity fee based on the size of the meter they have.

Fleming said she didn’t expect the rate to be a substantial increase, adding it would likely be under $10. A study to determine how much the capacity fee could be has yet to be undertaken and may take three or more months to complete, she said.

“We all want to be equitable and fair to everyone across the board,” Mayor Jon Pike said concerning the proposed capacity fee.

Members of the City Council also expressed support for the idea.

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. The federal rebate alone can cover up to 30 percent of the cost.

Initially, St. George approved a handful of solar installations within a year. With that number dramatically increasing, Fleming said, the approval process was temporarily put on hold as city staff considered ways to deal with rising concerns related to the net metering policy.

The City Council gave approval to allow those applications to move forward, with a note given to solar power users that the net metering policy would be changing at some point in the future.

Earlier this week, the Washington City Council also looked at its own net metering policy and approved an amendment clarifying language in the ordinance. They also did away with their city’s solar panel installation rebates.

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  • mxdirtboy December 14, 2014 at 12:04 am

    Even at a local level,goverments are really stooping to a new low. You all know eventually with us being coal fired power,our rates will skyrocket.Making solar a good option.Not now with a new tax.

  • Mike December 14, 2014 at 12:06 am

    They have to take our money somehow right?

  • getting flooded December 14, 2014 at 6:27 am

    Sounds like a bunch of bull!! They are punishing people for having a better way to create power sounds like another anti dance policy fiasco

  • Free thinker December 14, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Ok folks – time to start thinking of going off grid. Set up your own solar power just for you home only. Then these people will still figure a way to charge you. Of course you knew this was coming.

  • Mary December 14, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Hmmm . . .
    ” Currently, 63 of the city’s 28,000 power customers use solar power, ” so
    63 users times $10 = $630 .
    Seems like the amount might be less than the cost of reprogramming the billing system to get the extra dollars ?

  • Scarecrow December 14, 2014 at 8:10 am

    What a joke. Another penalty for folks doing the right thing. They shouldn’t have to pay to not use a government subsidized program or system. They save costs and the planet! Taxed and surcharged just like the organic farmers. Get outa here city officials. Trying to make it unreal compared to what?

  • Sentencia December 14, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Looks like St. George has 63 fools. Solar and wind are not viable sources of energy unless you choose to live off the grid. It’s great technology, just not a stable source. The whole global warming scam should be recognized as a sham and elected officials should have the stones to admit it and tell the truth. America was built by those who had vision and ability, not by democrats in Washington. Coal, yes coal, built America. Hydro-electric, nuclear, coal, natural gas are important sources of energy. Individuals, not elected officials or the EPA are the ones who invent and who have made coal burn clean. All this nonsense about Carbon being bad is a fools shrill. We are Carbon and everything you wear, ride in, live in etc is made possible because of petroleum. Time to push back against the enviro-pagan idiocy.

    • Joe Smith December 14, 2014 at 11:41 am

      IF anybody has found a good hidin’ spot for the guns, I bet it’s this guy. Remember everyone, Obamas a’comin’ to take them guns! Could happen any day!

  • KOOLAID December 14, 2014 at 8:43 am

    These extra fees and penalties brought to you by GOP for big oil and gas companies.

  • Joe Smith December 14, 2014 at 11:43 am

    This globalized warmage is a bunch of librul nonsense. Obamas’ just tryin’ to take away my 10 ton dodge ram. Taking away a man’s ram is like neutering him. DARN LIBRULS!

  • Koolaid December 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Darn Republicans imposing fines on people practicing methods efficient energy. Next they will raise gas prices to penalize people for having fuel efficient cars. Did you know some of the richest people in America are oil and gas CEOs? Just ask Dick Cheney and Bush!

  • zacii December 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Ah, the hypocrisy of St. George people. Crying day and night against the injustices of the big goverments, while their local politicos take bites out of their freedom every day.

    Every time people try to be innovative and lower their tax liabilities, the elected wolves must find a way to force them to pay anyway.

  • ladybugavenger December 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    How about SCRUB this new fee

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