Oklahoma judge protects solar customers from extra charges

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin tours OG&E Solar Farm in Mustang, Okla.

An agreement announced last week could protect Oklahoma’s solar customers from arbitrary demand charges if the state’s corporation commission approves it.

Under the auspices of Administrative Law Judge Ben Jackson, Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) reached a tentative agreement with 15 parties that would prevent the utility from including solar-specific charges in rate schedules for customers customers with solar arrays on their roofs until at least the next rate review.

“[I find] at this time that distributed generation (DG) has nominal impact on OG&E’s ability to provide the optimum price mix for its customers,” Jackson wrote. “In addition, it does not stress OG&E’s substations. [I believe] OG&E can recover its distribution costs without special rates and charges for DG customers.”

Homeowners with solar arrays will see no changes in their current pricing structures. The agreement also stipulates that before OG&E could impose tariffs on solar customers in the future, it would have to commission a third-party study to justify the charges.

The agreement in Oklahoma is just the latest discussion of solar-specific charges as utilities around the country grapple with the question of how to accommodate increased solar development on the grid. Fixed charges and demand charges are under consideration in multiple jurisdictions.

The proposed agreement now goes the three-member Corporation Commission, who will vote to accept or reject the tentative agreement.

OG&E is a investor-owned public utility that serves 821,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas. The utility initiated the rate-review process in December 2015.