A settlement reached on August 10 (Docket No. 15-00296-UT) by New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission (PRC) means customers of Southwestern Public Service statewide will not have to pay higher fees for producing their own solar energy.
The five commission members voted to keep solar surcharge fees the same or lower for residential, commercial and municipal customer-generators.
Sara Gersen, clean energy associate attorney at Earthjustice, said her organization – along with Vote Solar – had intervened in the case because they believed that the proposed rate hikes could have crippled New Mexico’s solar industry.
“We were able to secure a settlement that ended the rate case,” Gersen told the Public News Service, “without solar customers – or other customers who have their own renewable generation – paying any rate hike on that generation fee.”
According to Gersen, last October, the utility proposed a 31 percent increase on the current charge for residential customers and up to 48 percent for other types of customers. Since most of New Mexico’s power is fossil-fuel generated, she said, it’s important to maintain and grow solar energy production to protect the environment.
Additionally, Gersen said, the surcharge no longer will be applied net metering. “The energy you put on the grid gives you a credit,” she said. “But if you have to pay additional fees on top of that, it eats away into the benefit that you get from being a net-metered customer.”
Utilities have tried to restrict the growth of rooftop solar nationwide, she said, by implementing uncorroborated fees, surcharges, and other rate changes. Earthjustice and other advocates have successfully intervened in two other New Mexico rate cases to block proposed rate increases aimed at solar power systems.