Nov. 7, 2016 06:02 PM

The new fees caused LUS a headache beyond the value of the issue, LUS Director Terry Huval says.

LUS Director Terry Huval says he will ask the Lafayette council to repeal the so-called "solar tax."
Photo by Robin May

[Editor's Note: Since publication of this article, the chairman of the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority asked fellow members in an email to repeal the fee ordinance for solar users. Read that here.]

LUS Director Terry Huval tells ABiz he will ask members of the Lafayette City-Parish Council to repeal the ordinance that imposed fixed cost fees on solar panel users on the Lafayette Utilities System.

The fees, tagged the “solar tax” by opponents, caused LUS a headache beyond the value of the issue, Huval tells ABiz.

“We believe we were doing the right thing,” Huval says of the ordinance, which was introduced in August after major flooding and enacted in September. “But, the pushback has been out of proportion to the impact, so we’ve decided to ask the council to repeal the ordinance.”

Huval says there are approximately 250 residential solar customers on the LUS electric system, which has about 66,000 total customers. Under the ordinance, solar customers were going to pay fees to cover costs associated with the infrastructure (wires, poles, etc.) that enabled them to connect to the LUS system to supplement their panel-generated power.

Andrew Duhon, LUS’ customer and support services manager, told ABiz last week that few if any of those 250 solar customers on the LUS system were producing enough power to meet all of their electric needs.

The opposition to the ordinance was intense. Simon Mahan, an LUS customer who works for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, challenged the fairness of the fees in a blog post that was republished by ABiz Nov. 2, garnering more than 60,000 page views in a matter of days.

Mahan tells ABiz that before Huval decided to seek repeal of the ordinance, the LUS fees treated residential solar users as “worse burdens than schools, churches and small businesses, which have fixed cost fees of $10 per month.” Mahan maintains the LUS fees would have added $27.60 a month to his electric bill.

“I’m very happy to hear that Lafayette Utilities System plans to restore solar families to the standard rate schedule,” Mahan says of Huval’s decision this week. “Our community can be proud of Lafayette Utilities System’s decision to protect solar families.”

Mahan’s blog post sparked reaction of its own from LCG District 6 Councilman Bruce Conque, chairman of the LPUA that governs LUS, and from District 8 Councilwoman Liz Hebert.

Hebert says she and Mahan are personal friends, and that they spoke after his post went out. Hebert had heard from a number of her constituents who opposed the fees and says that she, Conque and Huval were planning to meet Tuesday (tomorrow) to discuss a way to a new path on the issue.

ABiz contacted Huval about the issue Monday morning. He initially deferred comment but then said he was reviewing the fees and would have a statement later in the day. Just before 5 p.m., he called to say he had decided to seek to have the ordinance repealed.

ABiz will have more on the story and the apparent death of the fixed cost fees in its next issue, which hits newsstands Nov. 15.

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