Rush of Small Wind and Solar Installations as Regulators Prepare for Fee Requests

  • Joe Wertz
A worker installs a rooftop solar panel.

Green MPs / Flickr

A worker installs a rooftop solar panel.

Customers wanting to generate power from small wind turbines and solar panels without being assessed fees rushed to make sure such installations were fully operational by Saturday, Nov. 1.

The deadline was imposed by Senate Bill 1456, which “requires utilities to account for potential costs those customers impose” on electric utilities, The Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports:

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy conducted an informational meeting Thursday to help explain to the public the potential effects of the new law. Representatives from The Alliance for Solar Choice, a group of the nation’s largest rooftop solar panel companies, and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. gave presentations about the costs and benefits of distributed generation.

At the meeting, a representative for Oklahoma Gas and Electric, the state’s largest power provider, said it may ask regulators for permission to impose a “demand fee” for distributed generation, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports.

OG&E plans to include a distributed generation tariff as part of a general rate case in 2015.

PSO expects to bring its distributed generation tariff as a standalone application.

Don Rowlett, managing director of regulatory affairs for OG&E, said the utility is studying customer usage data and wants to make sure distributed generation customers are paying their fair share of the costs needed to hook up to the grid for times when they aren’t able to use their solar panels.

Fewer than 170 of OG&E’s residential customers are distributed generators, Monies reports, but Norman solar panel installer Steve Wilke has staked his business on that number increasing. He tells the Journal:

Wilke said he and his partners at Delta Energy and Design saw the perfect conditions in Oklahoma for growing solar electricity demand: rising energy costs, higher utility rates based on the time power is used, and falling prices for solar equipment. About a year ago, he and two others started the firm.

Electric utilities “have until December 2015 to file an application for a tariff to cover the costs from customers who have distributed generation and are still connected to the grid,” Terry-Cobo reports.