Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Texas' Nonbypassable Optional Solar Fee

Proponents of House Bill 2961 cite a "voluntary fee" on citizen's electrical bills as critical for attracting solar electricity generation to Texas.  The bill refers to the fee as nonbypassable.

$1 each month for each residential meter which, if applicable, must be included in nonbypassable delivery charges paid by the customer ’s retail electric provider.

Here's how citizens get out of paying the fee:

(A) submitting a written request after receiving an initial notification of the implementation of this program, which notice shall be issued by an electric utility or a transmission and distribution utility to its residential and small commercial customers within 60 days after the commission adopts rules implementing this program; or
(B) making a request when establishing service with a retail electric provider or an electric utility
It's not clear the method utilities will use to let citizens know they can opt out of the fee.  Do electricity users have to know about their right to not pay and then make a request?

As for low income electricity users:

The commission by rule shall provide a method by which the program administrator shall use money from the solar generation rebate fund to pay for a credit to the electric service bill of eachlow-income electric customer for an amount equal to the amount of the fee assessed in the customer ’s bill.

It's not clear the timing of the credit vs. the charging of the fee.  Low income persons could pay fees which help the fund earn interest (before credits are applied).

The fund consists of fees established by the bill, gifts or grants awarded for the purposes of the program, and interest and other income from investment of the money deposited to the credit of the fund.

The devil will be in the details, yet to be determined.

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