Massachusetts regulators limit fixed charges, reject new fees for PV systems

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When not trying to dismantle net metering, utilities across the United States are continually attempting to undermine the economics of customer sited-PV with new rate structures and higher fixed charges. However, as study after study finds, state regulators usually do not grant much of what utilities request.

As the latest evidence of this, on Friday the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities rejected a request by utility National Grid to dramatically increase fixed charges on residential and commercial customers. Under the utility’s request, fixed charges for residential customers would have risen from $4 to $6-$20 per month and charges for small commercial customers would have increased from $10 to $10-30 per month, based on the month of highest electricity usage.

DPU did allow a fixed charge increase from $4 to $5.50 for residential customers, per a proposal by the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

National Grid had also proposed a new charge for community and government PV installations related to forward capacity markets, which was likewise rejected. According to Vote Solar, in both cases National Grid was attempting to impose and increase charges on PV system owners without sufficient evidence to demonstrate that this was necessary, and the forward capacity charge was found to be inconsistent with earlier DPU rulings.

While rejecting both of these elements of National Grid’s proposal, DPU did approve a one-time interconnection fee of $28 for new customers with distributed solar that use a simplified process. Overall, Vote Solar expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

“We are extremely happy that the Department of Public Utilities found National Grid’s proposal did not meet the rate design goals of the Commonwealth and that National Grid did not demonstrate any cost-shift from non-solar customers to solar customers” declared Vote Solar Program Manager of DG Regulatory Policy Nathan Phelps in a statement on Vote Solar’s website.

National Grid will now need to file new rates to cover $170 million in annual revenue shortfall. However, if it wants to impose discriminatory charges on PV system owners it will need more evidence than it has supplied to date.