Mississippi will become the 46th state to implement net metering for owners generating renewable electricity with solar panels or wind. However, the new policy comes with rate limitations that favor utilities.
Briefly, net metering is the process by which individual utility customers who use solar panels or other renewable energy generators can sell back their excess power to utilities. The electricity the customers produce can be placed back on the electric grid to offset what they otherwise would pay on their power bill.
In states like California, existing net metering policies have been strongly opposed by utilities, claiming it costs too much to shareholders.
In early January of 2011, the Mississippi PSC initiated a study of the costs and benefits of net metering. Based on study results, on December 3, the new net metering policy went into effect.
This is all well and good, but according to pv-magazine, net metering refunds or payouts are limited in their financial scale: “…despite the findings of a study ordered by the commission which found that net-metered solar produces value higher than the retail rate, Mississippi decided to credit excess electricity produced by its customers at the wholesale electricity rate plus US$0.025 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).”
So much for the idea of a retail rate for distributed energy suppliers. The Mississippi PSC opted for this perspective from Mississippi Power:
“Mississippi Power agreed with the approach taken by the Mississippi PSC in addressing renewable net metering rules for the state. As reflected in our filings during the rulemaking process, the company believes a net metering rule should ensure that all customers pay their fair share for the availability and use of the electric grid so that non-renewable energy producing customers don’t bear an unfair portion of the cost. Supporting a reasonable net metering rule is the latest in Mississippi Power’s continued efforts to support of responsible renewable energy.”
The utility added its commitment to renewable energy was already evident in its more than 100 MW of cost-effective utility-scale solar project, which would make Mississippi Power the largest purchaser of solar energy produced in the state.
Under the new net metering policy, Mississippi distributed energy system owners will be credited for excess generation at the wholesale rate plus 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, with an additional 2 cent bonus for the first 1000 customers.
Residential solar projects up to 20 kW in capacity will be eligible for net metering, plus non-residential projects up to 2 MW. The aggregate capacity eligible to participate is limited to 3% of total system peak demand.
Mississippi net metering applies to customers of Entergy Mississippi and Mississippi Power Company. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which supplies power to the northern part of the state, has its own program and isn’t subject to the new rule. Cooperatives will have nine months to propose their own rules or adopt the commission’s rules.
A number of solar advocates were disappointed by the policy, stating it was overly complicated in favor of utility shareholders.
Mississippi River image via Shutterstock
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