Solar fixed charges violate federal PURPA law, says a petition to FERC


Four owners of small PV systems and the Alabama nonprofit GASP asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to invalidate solar fixed charges they say are discriminatory and illegal under the federal PURPA law.

The petition asks FERC to compel the Alabama Public Service Commission to order Alabama Power to set non-discriminatory rates for electricity sales to owners of rooftop solar and other “qualifying facilities,” a term defined by PURPA. The petitioners’ four PV systems range in size from 2 to 6 kW and are qualifying facilities that are exempt from certification filing requirements, says the petition.

Since 2013 Alabama Power has charged a monthly fee, currently $5.41/kW of solar capacity, for service to customers who have solar power. State regulators have approved the fee.

The petitioners maintain that Alabama Power’s solar fixed charges violate the PURPA regulations, because those regulations prohibit rates for sales of electricity that discriminate against qualifying facilities.

The petition maintains that the solar fixed charges are not based on a cost-of-service study, or on consistent systemwide costing principles, saying both are required under PURPA. The petition adds that the charges are based on lost revenues resulting from reduced customer usage, which is not unique to solar adoption, and thus are discriminatory.

PURPA is the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978. FERC developed the underlying PURPA regulations and has enforcement authority.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and the law firm Ragsdale LLC represent the petitioners. The petition is available at FERC docket EL21-64-000 or here.

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