On Wednesday, April 28th, the Commissioners of the Public Service Commission vetoed Dominion Energy’s proposed solar choice metering tariff (Docket No. 2020-229-E). You may have questions about how this relates to you and your energy bill—here are some of the most common questions the PSC receives from consumers like you.
What’s a “tariff?”
You probably most commonly use the word “tariff” to refer to a tax or another additional fee added on to the cost of a product or service, but the word has a more nuanced meaning when used in this context. We can track its origins back to the Arabic “ta’rif,” or a fixed “inventory of prices to be paid,” and it became a common word in the late sixteenth century to refer to an assessment of prices or fees.
In utility regulation, a “tariff” is the rate schedule a utility provider uses to calculate what you owe for your electricity based on your usage, not a tax or additional charge. Think of it as closer to an algorithm—something automatically calculated based on several factors (time of day, usage rate, etc.). So, when a company, like Dominion, seeks to create or amend its tariff, what they’re asking for is approval from the Public Service Commission to establish or make changes to their rate structure.
In the case of this docket, Dominion Energy South Carolina sought to set a schedule of fees for people who produce energy from solar power, whom you’ll see referred to as “customer-generators.” The Public Service Commission voted to deny this proposed schedule.
Am I a “customer-generator?”
That depends—do you have solar panels on your property that are linked to the grid? You may have leased them from a third-party company (Sunrun, Vivint Solar, etc.) or you may have installed them yourself. If you do have solar panels, then yes: you’re considered a customer-generator. You produce solar energy, which is sold back to Dominion Energy, saving you money on your power bill and reducing strain on the power grid.
What’s changed as a result of the PSC’s decision?
On April 28th, 2021, the Commission issued a directive that established a solar choice tariff for Dominion Energy South Carolina. You can find the complete directive at this link, but some helpful things to keep in mind are that, per the Commission, there will be no subscription fee for solar production (that is, you won’t pay a flat fee for having solar panels on your home) and you, as a customer, will have the right and title to transfer renewable energy credits attributable to your generation of power.
Renewable energy credits?
Essentially, this is a tax credit offered to those who produce renewable energy. Reach out to your solar provider to learn more and whether you qualify!
If you have further questions, reach out to the PSC at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 803.896.5100. You can also speak to the Office of Regulatory Staff if you have a complaint against a utility provider or would like further information from their consumer advocacy department—just call 803.737.0800.