While the solar industry and big utilities are — for the most part — finding common ground in neighboring Massachusetts, word on the streets from Hartford to New Haven has it that Connecticut Light and Power is about to launch a sneak attack on rooftop solar customers taking advantage of the state’s net energy metering policy. If this sounds like a familiar story, that’s because it is.
Net metering is a policy on the books in 43 states — including Connecticut — that gives rooftop solar customers full retail credit for the excess energy they deliver back to the grid. Utilities then sell this energy at the full retail rate to their neighbors, even though it doesn’t cost the utilities a dime to generate, transmit, or distribute that energy.
This wasn’t enough to irk the utilities when rooftop solar was still a niche industry, pricing out low- and moderate-income homeowners. But sound policies like net metering and competitive financing have allowed more and more consumers to embrace rooftop solar. As energy demand has decreased across the board, and utilities have begun to see significant hits to their profits, the gloves have come off, and both sides have dug in for a protracted battle.
As of late, solar advocates are on a roll, building grassroots coalitions, winning legislative battles against high-priced utility lobbyists, and growing stronger by the minute. Polls across the country and across all demographics consistently show overwhelming public support for solar and other renewable energy. And after suffering a series of defeats over the past year trying to curtail net metering, utilities are looking for new ways to make money at the expense of consumers.
So to those of us who’ve been following the ebb and tide of this issue, the rumor that CL&P is about to implement a fixed charge that essentially targets rooftop solar customers is not exactly surprising. But it will probably come as quite a shock to CL&P’s rooftop solar customers when the utility proposes what amounts to a penalty for taking action to make their homes more energy efficient, protect our environment, and improve public health.
Of course, we’ve seen what happened to Arizona Public Service when they recently tried — and failed miserably — to implement a similar fixed charge. That’s not to mention the solar industry’s perfect record in the past two years defending net metering from California to the Carolinas. But maybe CL&P missed the memo. So I did them a solid and contacted their PR team for a comment.
As you might expect, CL&P denied that they are targeting solar customers with new fixed rates. But in doing so, they did mention filing a more broad application with the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority for an across-the-board rate increase that would affect all of their customers. (This could go down as the worst dodge of a question in press relations history.)
Bottom line: CL&P’s solar sneak attack may still be in the works. Let’s hope they wise up before moving forward.
Image: Connecticut flag via Shutterstock