GRU Authority finalizes vote on net metering amid pushback

Gainesville Regional Utilities sign
Suzette Cook

The Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority (GRU Authority) voted to change the rate it pays to customers who put solar energy onto the electric grid. The authority also decided to delay making changes to the clerk position and allow an opt out for Advanced Metering Infrastructure.  

Around 27 public speakers argued against the GRU Authority changing rates for net metering customers. These net metering customers have solar panels that power their homes when available but also use power from GRU when the solar panels don’t produce enough energy. 

Throughout the year, if a residential solar array sends more electricity to the grid than GRU supplies to the home, GRU buys the excess electricity produced. 

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The GRU Authority voted to not change the agreement with current net metering customers. But customers who apply for solar permits on or after April 18 will be subject to the new rate.  

Net metering customers for 2023 received a full retail rate for their energy. So, if a home sent 10 kilowatt-hours to the grid in a month and also used pulled 10 kilowatt-hours from the grid, the usage canceled out.

However, under GRU’s change, a customer who sends the same kilowatts to the grid that they pull from the grid will still need to pay money. GRU has said that the energy provided by the utility is worth more than the energy being sent to the grid by home solar. Now, GRU’s energy will have a full retail rate ($0.0846 per kilowatt-hour in 2023 for tier 1) while the utility pays the lower fuel adjustment rate (currently $0.035) for the energy produced by the home solar array.

GRU said state law requires investor-owned utilities must pay the full retail rate, but municipally-owned and community-owned utilities can use different rates. Investor-owned utilities have pushed for the same options concerning net metering.

According to state law, investor-owned utilities must pay the full retail rate, but municipally-owned and community-owned utilities can use different rates. Investor-owned utilities have pushed for the same options concerning net metering. 

GRU staff said the change will save money and lower the subsidy that non-solar owners currently pay to solar owners.  

Chair Craig Carter said that GRU is not getting rid of net metering, addressing a concern spread in the community.  

“The utility has an expense with [net metering]. I am all for solar. I’m just not for the way we’re paying it,” Carter said. 

Public speakers, including many solar company owners and employees, argued against the change. Because of the number of speakers, Carter decided to only give each person one minute.  

Speakers said the change would cause lost jobs in the area and reduce the number of homes that install solar. Speakers also warned that lawsuits, like some faced by JEA, could come.  

Several said that the savings would be negligible while harming the economy, environment and family finances.  

After public comment, board members Robert Karow and Eric Lawson had nothing to add. Carter began to speak but was interrupted by speakers in the crowd. After the lawyer asked for decorum, Carter also asked building security to be ready to intervene if the meeting couldn’t continue because of the continued outbursts.  

The item passed 3-0, with member James Coats absent.  

The GRU Authority also voted to allow an opt out for customers who don’t want Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).  

AMI wirelessly sends usage data to GRU and the customer, allowing more frequent and efficient monitoring of meters. The opt out will be available until the old meters are no longer commercially available, and customers who don’t want AMI will need to pay $38 monthly to cover the cost of manually reading the meter.  

Wednesday’s meeting was likely the last for the current GRU Authority. The entire board resigned in March following a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis. New applications for the board were due Tuesday, and DeSantis is expected to appoint the new members in May.  

Carter announced on Wednesday that he did not reapply for the position. He said he would rather spend time with family and said he felt like he couldn’t make a difference in the role.  

Lawson, Carter and Karow thanked GRU staff for their work over the last six months since the board members started terms.  

Editor’s Note: The story has been updated to change the rate that net metering customers used in the past.

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Ellen Siegel

I was there. A very major point, not covered in this item, is the fact that this preemption was done without sufficient notice, no impact study, and no shared data upon which the motion is based. It would have been good to interview, or at least quote, some of the speakers for the conflicting information available in the room last night. Mr. Johnson, there were many arguments besides financial, given by the many speakers. For one, this is a disincentive to put renewable energy on on our roofs, for another percentage of solar in the city is pathetically small and it will save homeowners about six cents per month Ording to Dr Barry Jacobson Those arguments would have made good copy.

Janice Garry

Only three Authority members were present at the meeting (a full board is five members). They reduced the time the each attendee could speak from three to one minutes. They ignored facts brought up by informed citizens and businesses. They ignored the numerous requests to postpone a decision or offer a roll-in period for a dramatic change in how billing takes place for solar energy. These three people, who have been determined to be ineligible to sit on the board, made a draconian change at their last meeting.

They have hurt the people of Gainesville on so many levels. These governor-appointed members have ignored our voices, damaged local businesses, thwarted our transition to renewable energy, promoted weather catastrophes, and ignorantly hurt the long term fiscal health of GRU and Gainesville. This was a political stunt. It was not good governance. While this article states some of the facts, it does not begin to capture the full story. It is my hope that MainStreet will devote resources for investigative journalism on what happened last evening.

Jim Harper

Goodbye puppets. Welcome new ones soon. Sigh.

Bill Whitten

While there’s room to negotiate the specific numbers, the general thrust of this decision is a good one. As long as a solar home is connected to the grid, they need to be paying to have that grid available. The utilities should be purchasing solar power in preference to that from non-renewable sources, but the payments for residential surplus should be on a par with solar purchased from other commercial sources.

Michael Collins

Solar customers do pay to be connected to the grid. All of them. They pay the fixed customer charge like everyone else does.

Martin Elkins

The rate change information in this article is incorrect.

GRU previously credited solar production back at the retail rate which is $0.0846/kwh PLUS the fuel charge of $0.035/kwh. The new policy plans to pay back “just” the fuel adjustment amount so the difference is $0.0846/kWh or more when considering additional fees and taxes involved.

This is a huge change.

Last edited 1 month ago by Martin Elkins
Michael Collins

Correct! And Main Street Daily News needs to get their information straight before posting stories. This is an egregious error. GRU will now be paying 1/5 of what they were paying before and will be making a killing off of customer owned systems. This is not “rate equity” as they explained in their presentation. It’s the literal opposite of that.

Michael Collins

The numbers in this article that are cited are incorrect. The rate is going from roughly 12-13 cents per kWh to 3.5 cents per kWh. Not from 5.16 cents per kWh to 3.5 cents per kWh. Not even sure what the 5.16 cents per kWh is in reference to. This should be corrected because it is a huge difference.