A small but growing number of homes and other buildings are using solar panels instead of the electricity from their local utility company. That's what a Morrow man decided to do. But, as Local 12 Troubleshooter Howard Ain says, what started out as a great idea has run into some unexpected pitfalls.
Shawn Anderson and his wife put up a large solar panel installation at their home in Morrow back in September, 2010. It cost $110,000 but thanks to federal and state grants and tax breaks, they paid only about half that amount. "We really were trying to do something that will help with conserving energy and being green as everyone keeps talking about and thought it would be a way to save in costs with our electricity as everything seems to be getting more expensive."
In the beginning, Anderson's electric bill did drop sharply. He actually got credits, then payments, for so called "net metering" when his solar-produced electricity was sent to Duke.
Anderson says the solar panels produce three times more electricity than he actually needs to run his house and its that extra electricity that he's sending to the utility. "With everything that would be offset it would be paying for itself in roughly 2 and a half years we figure."
But then this year his electric bill suddenly increased and he noticed the addition of a new charge on his bill. "They put in a new rider system that we still have no gotten any answers in regards to what exactly it is but our costs went up close to almost 60 percent in just the last 3 months."
Anderson says this increase in his electric bill will cost him about $2400 this year and says it's not fair. "When you put that kind of investment in place, you expect they're going to stick with what the original agreement was but they want to change the rules and that's what we find really disconcerting."
A Duke spokeswoman says the Ohio Public Utilities Commission approved a rate change which took effect January first this year. She says part of that change allows Duke to charge him to cover the cost of the electricity he gets off the electric grid when he's not producing electricity from his solar panels.
Duke says Anderson is the only one, at least in this area of Ohio, who's producing his own electricity. He's upset about these new rates and is taking his fight to the PUCO. We'll let you know how it turns out.