PSC postpones solar vote

State regulators postponed a decision Wednesday on an effort to roll back the benefits of incentives to add solar paneling to their homes.

The Louisiana Public Service Commission heard testimony from homeowners, manufacturers and utility company officials.

PSC Commissioner Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill, asked the other four members of the panel to join him and change PSC rules regarding “net metering,” which is the way the owners of solar panels have their bills credited for the power made by their solar units.

Holloway said the incentives amounted to most utility customers subsidizing the few who have installed solar panels. “I’m not opposed to solar. I’m opposed to what we’re doing right now,” Holloway said.

Homeowners testified that they installed the systems based on the promises made by the PSC to promote just such an investment and now Holloway wants to change those rules.

Solar systems only produce electricity during sunshine hours, and the individual systems add excess power to the utility’s electricity grid. At night, they draw power from the utility’s grid.

Owners of solar panels are “paid” by the utility at the “retail” rate for the power moved onto the grid during the day. Those credits reduce the overall bill for the electricity used at night. The system is called “net metering.”

Holloway proposes to lower the amount utility companies pay for the electricity they buy from the people who own solar power equipment from the “retail” price to the “wholesale” price plus 1 cent. The lower “wholesale” price is the cost to utilities for buying electricity from merchants or making their own power.

Holloway said he would bring the matter up for a vote in May to provide time for a better understanding of the issues surrounding his proposal.

Andrew Owens, of Entergy, said the two subsidiaries regulated by the PSC counted growth in the number of “net meters” from about 600 in February 2012 to 1,435 customers on March 31. Another 600 customers have applied and will have meters installed during the next month or so, he said.

Entergy Gulf States Louisiana L.L.C. and Entergy Louisiana LLC have more than 1 million customers in Louisiana.