Alabama is a state that doesn’t like solar. And by state, I mean the owners and managers and their allies that directly benefit from the coercive association nature of the Alabama coercive enterprise. Apparently, the coercive enterprise of Alabama determined if you want to become self-reliant and, say, go off-grid, it’s going to cost you. You will have to pay the government $9,000 or more for the privilege, the crown-granted privilege, of using solar panels to power your home.
Among the 43 states plus Washington, D.C. that GTM Research tracks individually, it ranks 42. It has just 1 megawatt of residential systems installed. According to GTM Research solar analyst Austin Perea, it’s hardly “a blip on the radar.”
“In the realm of what’s happening in residential solar, I’d say what’s happening in Alabama may be the least important thing,” said Perea.
How did the state win that distinction? Through a mix of regressive policies…….
Wednesday marks the fifth anniversary of state regulators’ approval of Alabama Power’s fee. It requires some solar-generating customers to pay $5 per kilowatt each month (according to Alabama Power, whether or not a customer pays that fee depends on their rate). For a 5-kilowatt system, that equates to $25 a month, $300 a year, and $9,000 over an installation’s possible 30-year lifetime. At the current national average price per watt of $2.92, a 5-kilowatt system costs $14,600. That fee adds more than 50 percent to the original cost.
The utility said it did not feel the fee had a significant impact on the state’s residential solar market.
Several years ago, many states were in the same position as Alabama. Small markets such as Kansas and Louisiana considered net metering changes as utilities worried about their bottom lines. The American Legislative Exchange Council drove many of those efforts with prewritten legislation that would reduce net metering or add fixed charges. Ultimately, few of those efforts succeeded.
Not so in Alabama.
“If Alabama Power set out to prevent the development of a rooftop solar market in its territory, it has absolutely succeeded with this charge,” said Katie Ottenweller, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “As far as I’ve been able to determine, this structure, and this fee in particular, is the most punitive fee that has been adopted by any regulated utility in the country.”