Solar co-op participants push municipal utility to be fair to solar homeowners

By Ben Delman on January 18, 2019

Lakeland residents get their electricity from a municipal utility, Lakeland Electric. The utility unfairly singles out residents who have gone solar. It forces them to pay higher “demand charges” because they have solar. Lakeland is the only utility in Polk County that requires solar homeowners to pay such an extra charge.

Solar supporters took their concerns about Lakeland Electric’s unfair solar charges to the city commission.

Demand charges are additional fees based on an electric consumer’s peak usage. They make sense for industrial and commercial businesses that draw large amounts of electricity from the grid. But charging such fees for residential solar customers is unfair and punishes existing solar users, which discourages more people from going solar.

Demand charges cut at the economic reason for going solar. Solar homeowners save money because they’re able to offset their electric bill with their own electricity production. Demand charges are ‘fixed’ on your electric bill. This means no matter how little electricity from the utility you use, you still have to pay the utility money.

This unfairness has caused solar supporters to act.

Earlier this month a group of more than a dozen solar supporters attended the monthly Lakeland city commissioners meeting. They explained why these solar demand charges are unfair and the burden these charges put on homeowners interested in going solar.

Leaders of the Polk County Solar Co-op have taken the lead against the demand charges. The group, which now boasts more than 100 participants, is in the process of going solar together. Many co-op participants will not be able to see a financial return from going solar with the current rules in place, so they decided to act.

The meeting was a good opportunity to educate city officials and the public about the demand charge issue. Co-op participants urge their fellow Lakeland residents to contact the Mayor and City Commissioners about the issue. Lakeland residents can click here to send a message to them.