Bill to protect solar customers from discriminatory fees introduced in Texas

Utilities across the country have responded to the increase in customer-sited solar with a host of new attempts to increase rates and impost discriminatory charges on the owners of such installations. And while regulators typically are typically not granting the full extent of what utilities ask for, this has not stopped them from trying, in state after state, in proceeding after proceeding.

In Texas, one state legislator has responded with a bill to shield the owners of residential and commercial fees from discriminatory charges. House Bill 199 (Pickett, D) has yet to attract any co-sponsors is currently in the State Affairs Committee of the Texas House of Representatives, but it has drawn support from the solar industry.

“Solar panels on houses should not generate punitive additional charges, and, in fact, we need to encourage solar,” stated John Billingsley, CEO of Dallas-based installation company Sunfinity Solar.

The bill comes as a number of Texas utilities have come under fire for using rates to penalize solar customers. This includes the utility in Pickett’s district in El Paso County, which Environmental Defense Fund has taken to task for the demand charge in its new rate proposal, as well as Oncor, which proposed a hybrid of a fixed and demand charge for its residential customers that is among the most bizarre rate designs pv magazine staff has seen to date.

The brief bill would prohibit Texas utilities from imposing any discriminatory charges on customers who have installed solar and wind systems, as well as any rates or charges that are significantly higher than other residential or commercial customers who do not host such generation.

If passed by a 2/3 majority, the bill would go into effect immediately.