Denver Post, July 8, 2015
The board of Intermountain Rural Electric Association, Colorado’s biggest electric cooperative, is proposing a new — and potentially groundbreaking — tariff to deal with the growth of rooftop solar in its service area.
The board agreed Tuesday to present the plan, which involves adding a charge for systems that do not use IREA service very much, to its members. An earlier attempt to add a so-called demand charge met with protests from customers and was scrapped.
Under the new proposal, a ratio of monthly use to peak demand would be calculated and any customer falling below about 10 percent would be charged $4 a kilowatt for peak demand, according to Patrick Mooney, the association’s general manager.
John Farrell, director of energy programs at the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, called the IREA approach “a new one.” “It’s clearly meant to target the ‘fixed costs’ issue with folks connected to the grid but who use very little electricity,” Farrell, who is an expert on solar energy, said in an e-mail. He said is it is “more targeted than the typical fee.”
“We are just dipping a toe in the water to see if this works,” Mooney said. The plan is limited to new hook-ups because an extra meter has to be installed, and the association can’t install those meters for all 140,000 customers, Mooney said.
“A demand charge is a powerful tool for load management, but only if it distinguishes between periods of peak energy use and ‘off-peak’ use,” Farrell said. “In other words, rather than just charging more for customers who use less energy, can we drive them to use less during peak periods.”
San Mateo, Calif.-based SolarCity, the country’s largest solar installer, was critical of IREA’s initial demand-charge proposal. SolarCity spokesman Nate Waters said the company is reviewing the new plan.
The proposal will be open to customer comment and a public hearing if customers request one, Mooney said.
If adopted the charge would go into effect at the end of December.