Last fall, Austin Energy become the first utility in the U.S. to offer a “Value of Solar Tariff” (VOST) to its residential electricity customers.
The VOST rate is presented as an alternative to net metering, the bill credit mechanism that has driven most customer adoption of solar in the U.S. today. Some utilities elsewhere in the country are looking to ditch net metering and jump on the VOST bandwagon. But will that be a good tradeoff for current and future solar customers?
Let’s take a look at Austin Energy’s VOST and see how it might work in places that’s aren’t as, well, “weird.”
Here’s how the Austin VOST works: When a residential customer, let’s call her Sally, goes solar in Austin Energy’s service area, she is automatically signed up for the VOST. Sally continues to pay a monthly energy bill based on how many kilowatt-hours of electricity she and her family consume. However, now that she has a solar energy system, she is also given a credit for each and every kilowatt-hour her system generates. That credit is subtracted off Sally’s total monthly electricity bill. According to Austin Energy, the VOST rate is set up to more fairly reward solar system operators for the energy they produce. A VOST may soon be developed for commercial customers as well.