by Jessica Lillian on Tuesday 06 December 2011
Solar Industry Magazine

A new "standby charge" introduced by Dominion Virginia Power will require owners of some residential distributed-generation PV systems to pay a monthly distribution fee of $2.79/kW and a monthly transmission fee of $1.40/kW. The fees, scheduled to go into effect next April, apply to installations between 10 kW and 20 kW.

Although currently limited in scope due to the system size restriction, Dominion's actions reflect a potentially worrisome emerging trend for the PV industry.

The increasing amount of distributed PV on the U.S.' electric grids has required electric utilities to adjust - both technologically and financially - to their evolving customer base and load requirements. In some cases, the result is controversial new fees imposed on system owners - changing the PV cost ownership equation and, many installers fear, hurting business.

San Diego Gas & Electric's "network use charge," introduced in October, remains the most dramatic example, but Dominion's actions have been a source of friction between the utility and the area's PV sector.

"We are very concerned that the imposition of this charge will [result in] similar charges in other states," Francis Hodsoll, executive director of Maryland, D.C. and Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV-SEIA), tells Solar Industry.

In testimony before the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), Hodsoll called the utility's rate proposal "inherently flawed," noting that the new rates may cause a customer with PV a system to pay more than a non-PV-owning customer with a similar usage profile.

"In addition to being an apparent violation of the Virginia statute requiring utilities to provide uniform rates to similarly situated customers, these costs will severely reduce or eliminate the economic value of these [PV] systems," Hodsoll said in his testimony. The charges are calculated based on the customer's highest level of demand - measured in a half-hour period - in each month.

Now this is "fair" lol.