State and Federal Changes to Solar Net Metering Policy “could hold back the spread of clean, locally produced energy”

There’s a lot happening in the area of distributed solar power policy in the United States, and a recent report, “The 50 States of Solar,” by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center, helps us sort through it all. Key findings include:

  • There were 91 “state actions related to net metering, rate design, or solar ownership during Q3 2015.” Of these, “the most common were related to fixed charge increases 8 (26), followed by net metering policy changes (22), solar/DG charges (14), and state solar valuation or net metering studies (13).”
  • Utility-led rooftop solar is expanding, as utilities explore “new business models by owning and operating distributed PV assets.”
  • There is significant policy uncertainty regarding solar net metering in California, where proposals include ” buy-all, sell-all options for customers, new charges and fees, and reduced compensation for net excess generation.”
  • Utilities across the country continue to propose substantial increases in residential fixed customer charges.”
  • Residential demand charges are gaining momentum, as “a number of utilities have proposed new rate structures which would subject residential customers with solar to demand charges, which are based on peak energy usage over a billing period.”
  • Nevada hit its solar net metering cap, and “NV Energy’s proposed successor tariffs feature a new rate class for net metering customers with both timeof-use (TOU) and demand charges.”

The bottom line, as an energy analyst at the NC Clean Energy Technology Center explained to Greentech Media, is that while 2015 so far “has been another incredible year of growth in distributed solar thanks to rapidly falling costs and policies like net metering…some states are tapping on the brakes for solar by undermining this key policy or adding new fees and charges on solar customers.” Combined with the fact that “federal incentives for solar are set to expire at the end of next year,” the risk is that all these policy changes “could hold back the spread of clean, locally produced energy.” Which, of course, would be a big mistake.