Consumer advocate questions fairness of Va. solar deal

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – It sounds like a good deal: sell the solar power generated by solar panels on your roof to your utility company for a profit.

But a consumer advocate is calling it unfair.

Dominion Power has received approval from Virginia’s State Corporation Commission make similar deals. The utility will pay customers 15 cents per kilowatt for power the consumer produces but does not use.

However, the other half of the deal has raised concern. Customers also have to pay Dominion 10.5 cents to buy back what they actually do use.

The program is designed to encourage the use of solar energy, but Mark Cooper from the Consumer Federation of America says it is a bad deal.

“It’s so blatantly unfair that even in Virginia, it shouldn’t happen,” Cooper says, noting that Virginia is not known as a consumer-friendly state. “They should allow me to realize the full value of every megawatt or kilowatt I produce.”

Dominion Technology Manager Dianne Corsello says there is money to be made.

“It does depend on how big the system is that you put on your rooftop and how much electricity you use at your home,” Corsello says.

She says Dominion is the the first utility in this region to do this type of buyback, though it is being done in other parts of the country as well. The company is offering the buyback option in an effort to encourage more use of solar energy. The program begins on June 20.

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