Speakers Erupt Over Net Meter Compensation Changes at GRU Authority Meeting

Speakers Erupt Over Net Meter Compensation Changes at GRU Authority Meeting

The Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) Authority received explosive reactions from public commenters before, during, and after passing a motion to change the rate of compensation for future solar customers in Gainesville for the excess energy they distribute.

GRU’s director of utilities planning, Jamie Bradshaw, gave a presentation on the new changes, stating, “If you have solar today [on April 17th], your billing structure will not change. Our current interconnection agreement does not allow us to change it, so there will be no changes to existing customers.” 

Bradshaw clarified that existing solar customers would retain their current benefits. However, effective today, new applicants for solar permits will be subjected to a fuel adjustment rate.

In fiscal year 2023, GRU customers received $0.0516 per kilowatt-hour. Going forward, the new rate will align with the current fuel adjustment rate, which stands at $0.035 per kilowatt-hour, however, the rate is subject to fluctuations based on monetary changes to natural gas prices.

Chair Craig Carter said at the start of the meeting that they were not eliminating net metering and that the purpose of the changes was to prevent people who are not paying for solar from subsidizing it. 

With Vice Chair James Coats absent, Chair Carter, member Robert Karow, and member Eric Lawson received criticism for limiting public comment time to one minute instead of the standard three minutes. 

There has been a precedent at previous GRU Authority meetings to go longer than the designated 30 minutes for public comment to allow everyone three minutes to speak; however, the board elected to be more strict in the case of this item.

Sierra club member David Hastings called the cut to time "egregious" and said, "It's not democratic. It doesn't offer all of us an opportunity to say what we need to say.”

The board was criticized by numerous speakers for making these changes at what could be the board’s final meeting due to their recent resignations and a new board taking over next month. 

The coordinator of the Alachua County Labor Coalition Bobby Murmur said the net metering changes would disrupt people’s lives. 

“People who don’t currently have solar panels on their roofs have already started to plan to buy them. They have already worked with solar providers and salespeople to come up with a way for them to install these solar panels. You’d be pulling the rug out from these people.” 

GRU customer David Fitzgerald criticized possible savings from the changes and GRU’s megawatt capacity, which GRU stated was 20.5 megawatts.

“Additional context is required in that presentation that was given. Twenty megawatts of installed power sounds like a lot, but what's not provided is a total generating capacity and load, which should be included. For comparison, a small hospital is roughly twenty megawatts, so that's not very much in terms of GRU’s total capacity. $130,000 of savings per year seems like a rounding error to me when it was [1.7] billion dollars in debt.”

Realtor Mark Robinson told the board, “It sounds like maybe you’re gonna save $130,000 a year or $11,000 a month.” 

Carter responded that those weren’t the board’s numbers. 

Robinson asked, “I don’t know what your numbers are. Can you provide the numbers before you make a decision?" The meeting’s attendees voiced their agreement with his sentiment.

Gainesville Residents United member and co-litigant on the recent lawsuit that caused the authority members to resign, Jeffery Shapiro, implied that the board’s decision may result in the lawsuit being reactivated. 

“Note that the special law under which you operate states that the authority 'shall consider only pecuniary factors and utility industry best practices standards, which do not include consideration of the furtherance of social, political, or ideological interests.’ Our lawsuit was stayed, but it can be reactivated upon request to the court in Tallahassee. We can address the operation of this lame duck board with reactivation of that lawsuit.”

Following public comments, arguments flared up between Carter and attendees, culminating in him telling the officer in the room that he wanted them escorted out if deemed necessary. 

The authority passed the proposed changes to net metering 3-0. Immediately after the majority of attendees left the room. One person banged something loudly while another booed the authority members on their way out.

Jack Walden

Jack Walden

Jack Walden is the creator of Gnvinfo and a 2nd year journalism major at Santa Fe College. From general information, to exposing falsehoods and corruption, Jack seeks to deliver the truth.
Gainesville, FL