Utilities are pushing for taxes and fees on residential solar, according to utility trade-group Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI’s) attorney. Solar advocacy group The Alliance For Solar Choice (TASC) observed EEI Attorney Edward Comer’s comments at a solar workshop with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) last week. It shouldn’t be a surprise since utilities are in the practice of billing customers, not crediting or paying them for energy but this a is a public admission of the practice and how they justify it.
TASC reported that Comer said: “If [the utility is] required to purchase the power, I think legally there’s a sale.” As such the utilities are lobbying for value of solar tariffs (VOSTs) on solar-powered homeowners at least in Arizona, because the homeowners would have to pay additional taxes on the solar arrays. VOSTs, according to TASC, require solar homeowners to sell the solar power they generate to the utility. The tariff in turn creates a ‘tax’ that the homeowners must pay for having the system and generating the power.
The EEI lawyer also said under VOSTs or feed-in tariffs (VOST) the homeowners would have to pay the tax if the utility had to pay for the electricity under a FiT or VOST either as a credit or a an actual payment. Under current net-metering laws in Arizona and elsewhere the homeowners are not subject to such taxation.
“Utilities from Arizona, to California, to New York who are lobbying for VOSTs, have some serious explaining to do now that EEI’s own general counsel agrees with TASC about the severe tax consequences of these policies” said TASC President Bryan Miller. “Regulators can now see VOSTs for what they are—hidden taxes that hurt unsuspecting homeowners.”
In addition, under FiTs and VOST agreements homeowners with solar sell all the power they produce to the utility at the rates set by the utility under long-term power-purchase agreements. So they would be taxed for all the power their system produces. Under net-metering arrangements the homeowners only sell the power that they don’t use back to the utility, which again helps the homeowner keep electric costs down.