Customers won big this month when Gulf Power, in a settlement of its proposed rate hike, pulled back on a requested huge increase in the fixed charge portion of customers’ bills. A big hike in the fixed charge would have unfairly penalized families that conserve and use less power and those that wish to use rooftop solar power. It would have also hit low and fixed income especially hard.
But this past August, our local electric utility company passed perhaps the worst solar power policy in the south. Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) introduced an extremely complicated electric, water and sewer rate increase the same week historic, 1,000-year flooding occurred in Louisiana. The new rate structure for net metered customers, including solar power families like mine, is likely to double monthly electric bills, and double the length of time it takes for a solar panel system to pay for itself. The new policy effectively acts as a giant tax on solar power. Solar tax credits are being phased out, and when coupled with LUS’s new solar tax, it is unlikely that solar power systems would ever pay for themselves.