GRU plans rate change for rooftop solar payments – Mainstreet Daily News Gainesville

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Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) has seen a jump in customers installing solar panels and pushing excess energy onto the electric grid, jumping from 165 new installations in 2022 to 424 installations in 2023. 

Throughout the year, if a residential solar array sends more electricity to the grid than GRU supplied to the home, GRU buys the excess electricity produced, a process called net metering. 

GRU currently buys that excess energy at full retail price. But utility staff will present a new plan to the GRU Authority on Wednesday that would change the price the utility pays for the excess energy from new solar installations. 

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According to the GRU backup documents, Florida requires investor-owned utilities to pay the full retail price but municipally-owned utilities like GRU can switch to a different payment rate. 

Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) changed its payment rate in 2018, and GRU documents say the electric industry is moving in the same direction. Several investor-owned utilities advocated for a Tallahassee bill that would have given the companies options for net metering instead of the full retail price. Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed that bill in 2022.  

Florida Power & Light supports ending the current net metering requirements for investor-owned utilities. The company said that net metering at full retail price is a subsidy to homeowners with solar arrays that all other customers must pay. 

“We believe anyone should have the right and ability to own a private solar system and put it on their roof if they choose to, but we do not believe everyone should be forced to pay for that decision,” Florida Power & Light says on their website. 

The website adds that the subsidy will increase to an estimated $80 million by 2025.  

GRU looks to mirror JEA’s model and pay the fuel adjustment rate (currently at $0.035 per kilowatt-hour) for the extra energy instead of the current methodology (at $0.0516 per kilowatt-hour in 2023). 

Staff’s recommendation for the GRU Authority would be to keep existing net metering contracts in place, but home solar installations requested after April 17 would follow the new pricing.  

GRU backup documents say that solar infrastructure has matured since net metering began and no longer needs the same incentives. The presentation for Wednesday’s meeting notes that local participation in home solar has grown to levels that disrupt equity between those with and without solar arrays.  

The Wednesday meeting will also have an item on GRU’s rollout of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). The AMI smart meters allow GRU and customers to wirelessly check a home’s utility usage multiple times per day.  

While rollout is underway, the item for Wednesday would allow customers to opt out of the AMI upgrade.  

The current GRU Authority has resigned and applications for the five seats ends Tuesday at 5 p.m. DeSantis is expected to appoint new members within the next month. 

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