BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) voted 3-2 in favor of new rules that would lower the rates energy companies must pay customers who generate energy from rooftop solar panels.
The move allows utility companies such as Entergy to lower rates per kilowatt from 10 cents to 3.5 cents. It was opposed by groups such as the Sierra Club and PosiGen Solar.
“Today, the citizens of Louisiana lost,” said Thomas Neyhart, CEO of PosiGen Solar. “It was another win for the monopolies here in Louisiana.”
Neyhart says by reducing the amount paid back to customers for energy they generate through their panels, electric companies are making it tougher for residents to invest in clean, renewable energy.
“The problem is the people that already have solar systems that have invested under one set of rules, they said this is what your value proposition is going to be, they’re saying we’ll give you that value proposition for 15 years, but then we’re going to change it,” he said.
That investment is changing for homeowners like the Kaufmans.
Susan and Bob installed their panels in 2018.
"It is important to us for the future of the environment and being able to be progressive and think ahead and be less dependent on oil-based energy and it's really important for us to do the solar,” Susan Kaufman said.
The Kaufmans were able to install their panels thanks to a program offered by PosiGen that allowed them to lease them for 20 years.
"So it's sort of like a long term purchase,” she said. “It's a net zero cost for us to have them and we can be energy efficient and clean energy conscious."
The savings they receive from solar energy paired with what they are paid for selling any excess energy more than makes up for the cost of the panels.
“For us, that was a big selling point in actually being able to pull the trigger because we didn’t have the $20,000 that it costs out of pocket to just put solar panels on a house,” she said.
Under the new rule, the Kaufmans will be grandfathered into the current rate of 10 cents per kilowatt hour they’re being paid by Entergy. That rate only lasts 15 until 2035. Once that period expires, Bob says the savings will no longer cover the costs associated with the panels.
“Our lease won’t be up, so we’ll have four to five years after that net metering where we will be coming a little bit out of pocket for that because the lease won’t change,” Bob said. “That’s what we agreed to and that’s, and it was going to work with the net metering. Without the net metering, you know, it’s not going to horrible affect the one, but I think the future for us is where that makes a big difference.”
Where it does affect the Kaufmans is their other properties. They were planning on installing panels on the five rental homes they own.
"We would’ve considered on our son’s home and some other properties that we have for rental, we would’ve considered putting them on there, you know, if we could’ve taken advantage of net metering to make it affordable, but I don’t know if we will be able to at this point,” he said.
Entergy released this statement in response to the new rule:
“Entergy Louisiana has been working for years with all stakeholders at the Louisiana Public Service Commission to create a sustainable long-term policy for customers that choose to self-generate. The commission’s proposed rule appropriately balances the interests of the 1 percent of customers that use solar to self-generate and export excess generation to the electric grid with the interests of the 99 percent that pay for excess solar output.”