It’s been a while since we’ve met or had a bigger discussion about all things electrical here in Lafayette. Back in August, LUS and the council snuck through a major increase in charges to solar power users (including myself) right around the same time as the big flood.
Based on my preliminary calculations, it appears LUS has potentially succeeded in making it more expensive to put solar panels on your roof than to have nothing at all. Or, at a minimum, severely harmed the economics of solar. The solar tax is due to begin on Nov. 1st and affects new and existing systems.
Specifically, they increased the monthly service charge by $4.31 compared to a non-solar customer, plus an additional $15.95 new monthly “wires” charge – so there’s essentially a flat $20.26 additional charge per month for having a net meter. Also, they decreased the value of the payment for the power generated. So instead of getting the 4.4 cents per kilowatt hour generated (which is what they charge normally, plus fuel cost), solar only gets 3.9 cents. Here’s how I view this works in a normal month:
If you use 1,000 kilowatt hours, but generate 500 kilowatt hours from solar, you’d normally expect to save 50% on your electric bill. Instead of paying $86 per month, you’d pay $43. But not anymore. Now you’d pay $70 per month, even with solar generating half your power. Even if you generated 100% with solar power (1,000 kWh in a month), you’d still have a power bill of $33 per month. Because LUS tacked on a brand new wires charge, plus an increase in the base service charge, the lowest bill you could ever receive would be $27.26/month, and you’d need to generate 110% of your monthly needs.
How’d this happen? Well, LUS had an ordinance introduced at the August 16th LPUA and City/Parish Council meetings on August 16th to increase electric rates – right around the same time much of the parish was still reeling from the flooding.
LUS made 26 pages of recommended rate changes to everything from electric, water and sewer for virtually all different customer base (residential, commercial, churches, etc.). Deep in the ordinance was a brand new rate for “net meters” – no mention of solar whatsoever, but net meters are what solar is required to have in Lafayette.
The LPUA meeting was held at 4:30PM (when it’s hard for people who work to attend). Not a single person from the public spoke on the rate change ordinance. It was introduced and within 2 minutes the meeting was adjourned. At the CPC meeting later that day, the rate increase was bundled as an introductory item with twenty eight different brand new ordinances. Not a single member of the public spoke on any of the new ordinances.
Then, on September 6th, LPUA held their regularly scheduled 4:30PM meeting. Because the rate increase was now up for final adoption, public comment was not allowed. The rate increases, including the bad language for solar, was passed by the LPUA in fifty seconds. Later that day at the CPC, the ordinance was up for final passage, and again there wasn’t anyone from the public to speak up about the rate increase.
As a reminder, the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority (LPUA) is a five member subsection of the larger nine member City/Parish Council. LPUA council members generally cover the city of Lafayette. LPUA introduces/passes resolutions before the CPC meeting, but then the CPC has to approve those resolutions. As an added twist here, the LPUA ordinance number for the rate increase was coded different (O-014-2016) from the CPC ordinance (O-182-2016). So even if a member of the public was tracking one ordinance, they would have to search and dig to find the other in the other government body.
Woody, I and some others have been coordinating outreach to the council and LUS, but we need to step up. This fight on solar net metering is happening all across the country. Some communities are being extremely proactive to positively deal with it; others are sneaking it in to destroy solar power.
1. Contact your council member immediately and tell them you want the solar tax stopped.
2. We’re immediately launching a petition page, and doing some social media posts. I’ll keep you in the loop on that, but please be ready to share it.
3. On Nov. 1st, go to the CPC meeting in the evening and during the “open public comment period” sign up to speak and talk about how you don’t want the solar tax put in place. We’ll provide talking points ASAP.
4. On Nov. 10th, we’re hosting a big solar event at the library and will try to get the media to attend. Mark your calendars. More info TBD.
5. On Nov. 15th, we’ll deliver the petitions, but also, please show up at the LPUA meeting at 4:30PM and the CPC meeting at 6PM. And keep emailing/calling your council member.
Let me know if you have any questions.