Potential Net Metering Changes Could Adversely Affect Rooftop Solar

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Originally published on Solar Love.

When it comes to net metering dollars and cents for utilities, the utility bill face-off between rooftop solar champions and utilities continues to evolve.

rooftop-solar-netmetering-shutterstock_206249179With net metering wins being achieved in states like Colorado and Nevada, owners of rooftop solar systems may not be as fortunate in states like Florida, where the development of large-scale solar projects are being planned by investor-owned utilities Florida Power and Light (FPL) .

As one solar owner has put it:

“But the war on solar is now public, CEO of FPL is now out with a tour on the supposed “cost-shift” caused by solar on homes. Instead the solar plants, he says, should be large-scale (but only owned by the investor owned utilities). This will not play out well but we shall see.”

FPL CEO Eric Silagy has said that large-scale utility solar projects are more efficient than rooftop solar projects because each home requires a custom build and setup. In addition to this, FPL is required to buy all unused solar power at a retail price, which he argues is three times the cost of what it takes to produce power at FPL plants.

FPL is presently working on three projects that will each use about 1 million solar panels, Silagy has said. If this sounds like the proverbial case of Goliath versus David, the analogy is probably fitting.

But utilities seeking to expand clean renewable electricity in their portfolio believe they need to make business sense of how they utilize solar assets.

The Goliath likeness has reared its head on the Pacific coast, as well. California regulators have found themselves addressing new net metering policies under a plan referred to as Net Energy Metering 2.0. These potential changes could spell huge pitfalls for the development of rooftop solar, writes The Motley Fool:

“As part of the discussion, the state’s three biggest utilities, Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and San Diego Gas & Electric, are proposing changes to net metering that could stop the residential solar industry in its tracks.”

Add a number of large solar companies — like Solar City — to this list of net metering champions and we have the makings of an enduring face-off.

Image: Rooftop solar panels via Shutterstock

Reprinted with permission.

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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

Glenn Meyers has 449 posts and counting. See all posts by Glenn Meyers

13 thoughts on “Potential Net Metering Changes Could Adversely Affect Rooftop Solar

  • So the next step folks: Strive to have battery energy storage especially when it becomes affordable. The next round of legislation would make it hard for you to have battery energy storage too, like what they are doing to Solar right now. Of course the ultimate would be to go off grid entirely and forget about the utility companies and their lobbyists.

    I have already placed in my reservation for the 10 kWh Powerwall. I may need 2 units.

    • ACCOLADES! Exactly!!

    • The 10 kW⋅h model is meant for backup power. Besides making sure it’s interconnected safely, why would utilities care about what is basically a large UPS?

      Also, why would going off-grid (instead of just grid-tied solar) make any sense, financially or environmentally?
      You have a plug-in vehicle, so are you ready to spend minimum 20k$ on batteries (two or more 7 kW⋅h), PV (5 kW+ to cover December) and installation just to charge it, for example? I don’t think so either.

      • When net-metering is replaced by a FiT that is substantially lower than the consumer-rate of electricity, cheap storage can make consumer owned PV systems financially viable, that otherwise wouldn’t be.

  • So if the cost is “… three times the cost of what it takes to produce power at FPL plants.” are bills going to be cut to a third of the current value? 🙂

    • When Heck freezes over.

      • Does Heck run on FF or RE?

        • Fossil fuels, of course! Heaven runs on renewables.

          • Given that Fossil Fuels are limited and won’t last as long as people think, I reckon it’s going to get cold there long before Heaven runs out (if it ever will) 🙂

  • A lot of this is (hopefully) political posturing and bargaining strategy. The scary changes to net metering are probably just power companies coming to the table with a very extreme position so they can at least count on getting some of what they wanted, be it monthly charges, changes to the true-up period or what have you. They are also counting on the inability of solar customers to band together at the bargaining table, counting on state-level public utility commissions or consumer advocates to speak in solar owners’ places. This removes a lot of the passion, personal connection and bargaining power on the pro-solar side, especially since utilities can exert tremendous political pressure on some of these bodies.

    The real question that arises is how seriously are utilities taking distributed solar, how threatening do they really think it is to their bottom line and how ruthlessly do they plan to fight against it. They have to walk a fine line because if they’re too heavy-handed, public backlash will follow since solar power is still extremely popular. Solar advocates have to continually hold utilities accountable and raise public awareness since it is all too easy for a utility to hide a deathblow to solar in boring legalese.

  • I don’t think governments or utilities should dictate what homeowners do with their capital. In fact, the comparison Silagy is making is false, since, in a sense, the capital put forward by either the homeowner or the solar installer on their behalf comes at zero cost to the community and the general public. Accordingly, questions of efficiencies do not apply. How can you compare efficiencies when the marginal benefit of residential solar is infinite?

  • Electricity generation and distribution simply can’t be handled by the same entity.

    Distribution is usually necessarily a monopoly (and I’d argue, should be a city/community-owned public service, like roads, sewer etc), while generation badly needs some fair competition.

    • Hear hear. It is so weird that in the country where the free-market are worshipped like a god, state sanctioned commercial monopolies rule the electricity market,

Comments are closed.