GRU Authority makes change to solar net metering system – Gainesville Sun

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The Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority board voted Wednesday evening to change the utility’s net metering system, a move which will result in reduced savings for customers generating solar energy at their homes.

In 2002, GRU began offering rebates to customers in order to encourage solar installations, according to a presentation by GRU staff. In 2009, GRU moved to a net metering system which measures how much energy a  resident borrows from the grid as well as how much excess energy they push back to the grid. Customers are billed based on the difference between the two, getting much of their energy costs offset.

According to GRU staff, this model is required for investor-owned utilities, but not municipal ones like GRU.

“We’re not eliminating net metering. That is a false statement. We’re changing how we’re going to compensate for the solar,” Authority Chair Craig Carter said. “I am for solar… I someday will have it, I hope everybody does, but there is a cost to it and it should not be born on the citizens of Gainesville.”

Members of the Gainesville's GRU Authority hold their first meeting in City Hall on Oct. 4, 2023. All board members were appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and only one lives in Gainesville's city limits.

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The resolution to change the system passed 3-0, with member James Coats absent from the meeting. Moving forward, grid-provided energy will be billed at retail rates and those who generate excess solar energy will be credited at the current fuel adjustment rate.

The change will not affect current customers, but will be standard for anyone who obtains a solar permit after April 18.

Though GRU staff called this a “straightforward’ change in line with the way the utility industry is moving, nearly 30 residents spoke out against the change during public comments. Many touched on the environmental benefits of solar energy and expressed that any savings would not be worth it.

Others, including Alachua County Labor Coalition co-coordinator Bobby Mermer said the change would negatively impact local workers and companies who sell and install solar panels.

Toward the end of the meeting, uproar from the audience caused Carter to ask police to escort noisy attendees out of the room if necessary. He expressed his disappointment in the lack of civility in the room while an attendee yelled that allowing only one minute of time per speaker was not civil.

As all of the authority members have resigned, Wednesday’s meeting is presumed to be the last one before the governor appoints a new board.

“We’re a board up here, we’re trying to conduct business with the information we have. It’s real simple. You don’t like what we are, that’s wonderful,” Carter said. “This might be our last meeting. If the governor doesn’t reappoint [new members] we still might be here. He might reappoint some of us, you never know.”

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