Updated: Monday, 31 Jan 2011, 8:23 AM MST
Published : Saturday, 29 Jan 2011, 2:22 PM MST
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A lot of people go solar at home for environmental reason, hoping to save money along the way.
PNM wants to hike electricity rates by 21 percent but the utility company is going after solar users.
"We have 18 solar panels on the roof of our house.. they generate about 85 percent of our electric needs," solar-user Howard Stephens said.
Stephens enjoys a nice return from PNM on his solar energy investment. He gets 12 cents a kilowatt hour for all the power he makes. That is an average of more than $700 a year. Stephens installed his system four years ago.
“It's produced 25,000 kilowatt hours," Stephens said.
Stephens’ sweet deal may not last forever.
PNM is asking the public regulation commission to approve an access charge that would require new solar users tapping into PNM’s grid to pay eight cents a kilowatt hour for all the power they make, essentially rolling back the incentives.
“I think people will just stop buying solar panels and putting them up on the roof and putting electricity on the grid,” Stephens said.
Current solar users would have to eventually pay the fee but not until their current contract with PNM is up.
Contracts run 12 years.
PNM said the fee is necessary for the company to keep its infrastructure healthy and to help pay for the solar program.
Industry leaders said this request will set solar energy development back years and could mean huge job losses.
"It’s really nothing more than a clawback and cash grab for the utility company to take that money and put it to their bottom line,” Mike Mattioli Consolidated Solar Tech said.
PNM said nothing is final and that it will be up to the PRC to determine if there should be a fee and if so what it should be.
If the PRC approves PNM’s request, solar power users would pay an average of about $500 a year to the electric utility for using its grid.
Official hearings on the entire rate case are set to start the end of March.
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