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Published on March 19th, 2014 | by The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC)


Solar Industry Defeats ALEC Net Metering Attacks In Utah & Washington

March 19th, 2014 by  

In 2013, a national battle for energy choice commenced as utilities attacked solar net metering in California, Arizona, Louisiana, and Idaho. Net metering allows rooftop solar customers to use clean solar energy that they generate themselves, and then receive full retail credit for any excess electricity sent back to the grid. Utilities turn around and sell this energy to neighboring homes and businesses.

The solar industry – backed by overwhelming public support – claimed victory in all of the 2013 battles by preserving net metering. The Arizona battle was particularly heated, as Arizona Public Service (APS) funded a multimillion-dollar anti-solar campaign rooted in dirty and ineffective tactics. APS lied about funding phony grassroots organizations and ads attacking their own customers. Meanwhile, utility trade association Edison Electric Institute (EEI) aired its own TV and radio ads attacking rooftop solar customers. Despite spending millions and damaging their own brands, APS and EEI failed. What they did accomplish was dragging down APS’s net approval with its own customers by 13 points.

Arizona and last year’s 4-0 scoreboard for solar wins vs. utility losses demonstrate that the public – voters and ratepayers whose energy choice is under attack – wants rooftop solar. In 2014, public support for solar remains undeniable: the rooftop solar industry just defeated two additional attacks in Utah and the state of Washington.

The Utah and Washington battles mark the entrance of a new rooftop solar attacker: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC joined the fray last year with a template for model anti-net metering policies. Washington and Utah are the first decisions stemming from this template, and both are clear ALEC defeats.

Utilities, EEI, and ALEC want to undermine net metering to stifle rooftop solar growth and shut down energy choice. While net metering benefits everyone involved, many utilities are trying to end it to protect their monopolies.

“In state after state, overwhelming public support for rooftop solar continues to trump multi-million dollar attacks from utilities, EEI, and ALEC,” said Bryan Miller, President of TASC and VP of Public Policy for Sunrun.

In Washington, utilities lobbied for legislation that would have given them monopoly control over the existing rooftop solar market. The anti-competition proposal stated “if an electric utility offers a leased energy program, no other entity may offer leases to the utility’s customers.” This attempt to ban competition – the first of its kind – contradicts the very free market principles that groups like ALEC espouse.

The legislation died with the end of session last week – a blow to ALEC, as well as anti-solar utilities and EEI.

In Utah, bill language that would have changed net metering was removed from SB 208, instead asking for a study to look at the value of distributed solar. The bill will be signed by Governor Herbert now that it has passed through both the Senate and the House.

The solar victories in Washington and Utah are two more examples of state leaders and regulators continuing to recognize voter support and demand for rooftop solar and energy choice.

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About the Author

advocates for maintaining successful distributed solar energy policies, such as retail net metering, throughout the United States. Retail net metering (NEM) provides fair credit to residents, businesses, churches, schools, and other public agencies when their solar systems export excess energy to the grid. The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) was formed on the belief that anyone should have the option to switch from utility power to distributed solar power, and realize the financial benefits therein. The rooftop solar market has been largely driven by Americans’ desire to assert control over their electric bills, a trend that should be encouraged.

  • jburt56

    Cough, cough, KOCH, cough, cough. Sorry this sounds like a broken record.

  • JamesWimberley

    The industry’s alternative to net metering, a “value of solar” tariff, didn’t do them any good either. They got one in Minnesota; but as it was set after a rigorous and independent process, the tariff is very close to the current retail rate and therefore to net metering. Minnesota did throw in a social cost of carbon, using the same number as the EPA used for its regulations on coal plants – correct IMHO but controversial. The famed “backup capacity” factor did not play much of a role. True, solar needs grid capacity to make up for its intermittency; but distributed solar also reduces total grid load, the main determinant of reserve needs. These opposite forces more or less cancelled out.

    This result does not automatically generalise. Solar is well matched to peak a/c demand, and wind isn’t, so a “value of wind” tariff would presumably include more backup capacity. In France, peak electricity demand is in winter, driven by space heating, so a French value-of-solar tariff would also include more backup.

    • One benefit of the VOST i saw was that it was locked in for 25 years… iirc…

      • JamesWimberley

        Structurally, the Minnesota VOST is I think an FIT, calculated in a particular way.

        • That’s one way of looking at it.

          I’m a big fan of actually having a system to determine the tariff. Sure, the assumptions are perfect, but there’s a system and research that “tries” to pay a fair price for the benefits solar offers.

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