James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
January 29, 2014 | 6 Comments
New Hampshire, USA -- Net metering was one of the solar energy industry's hottest topics in 2013 — and barely a month into 2014 it's promising to stay that way.
The group alleged to be behind last year's failed attempts to repeal several states' renewable portfolio standards, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has since pivoted to train its sights on what it sees as a more attractive target: net metering policies and distributed-generation solar "freeriders." The Edison Electric Institute takes a less aggressive but similar stance against net metering, arguing that distributed generation solar users take far more from the grid than they give.
Many utilities still aren't sure how to accommodate solar energy, and are actively pushing back against it both up-front with incentives (which also continue to come under fire) and after the fact with net metering. "Utilities move in a herd," observed Karl Rábago, co-author of a recent report seeking to establish common methodologies for calculating value vs. cost of distributed solar energy. "Net metering is an existential threat to their business model."
Yet they all share some similarity of purpose: they "back-walk" into a solar charge based on broad assessments without specific underlying data to support them, Rábago pointed out. Net metering often is calculated to undercompensate for its true value, so incentives have to be crafted to make up for that in addition to their real purpose of market support. In fact solar advocates have been repeatedly showing that net metering and distributed solar generation (DSG) are actually beneficial to utilities.
In just the past few days we've seen evidence that net metering is still a very hot-button issue in several states. Here's a list of the most recent examples where net metering is back in the spotlight — both good and bad — and where the next debates will emerge.