Ohio’s net-metering rules appear destined for the state’s Supreme Court as utilities and their opponents dig in against each other over proposed changes.
The number of customers selling electricity back to the grid in Michigan climbed again in 2016, according to an annual report released by the state last month. The state’s net-metering program, which lets ratepayers sell surplus power back to the grid at retail prices, added 427 customers and nearly 5 megawatts of capacity, most of it from solar. While the state’s total solar capacity doubled last year through utility-scale projects, net-metering momentum is at risk after 2018, as the state prepares to replace net metering with a tariff aimed at better reflecting the value of solar and other forms of distributed generation. The Michigan Public Service Commission spent much of 2017 designing a replacement for the state’s decade-old net metering program, a requirement under the state’s sweeping 2016 energy law. The net-metering debate has revolved around whether customers’ use of solar panels is being subsidized by other ratepayers, or if the systems provide a net benefit to the electric grid.
Recent rule changes in Ohio would not fully reward solar energy and other renewable resources for the flexibility they bring to the market, say advocates.
As dozens of states consider adopting fees and less-favorable rates to tilt the scales against net metering, advocates say a proposal in Indiana would offer rooftop solar customers the worst deal in the country. Senate Bill 309, authored by Republican Sen. Brandt Hershman, would end net metering by 2027 at the latest, and earlier than that for new panel installations by customers of utilities that hit caps on net metering capacity. The new rules would require customers to buy all the electricity they consume from the utility at a retail rate while selling everything they generate to the utility at a lower wholesale rate. If the bill passes, Indiana would be the only state in the country with a “buy all, sell all” model that doesn’t credit customers at the full retail rate for the energy they consume from their own solar panels, said Autumn Proudlove, senior policy analyst at the NC Clean Energy Tech Center, which tracks net metering rules around the country. “I don’t think that I’ve seen any other models proposed that would be less financially favorable to solar customers since most of them allow the customers to at least self-consume energy from the system,” she said.
Indiana legislators have introduced a bill that many fear could kill the state’s solar industry by ending net metering and also essentially preventing people from using the energy from their own solar panels.
In response to an increasing number of customers installing solar power or opting for energy efficiency measures, American Electric Power has asked Ohio regulators to increase the share of distribution charges that all its utility customers must pay.
Five months after state regulators strongly urged them to develop pilot projects that would “expand renewable (distributed generation) in Iowa,” Iowa’s two largest utilities have proposed new rate systems that critics contend would do just the opposite.
A rural electric cooperative in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has backed off a plan to restructure its solar net metering program that originally infuriated some of its members last year.
Nearly two years into an examination of state policies towards distributed generation, the Iowa Utilities Board sees no reason at this point to make any major changes — a departure from what’s been happening in other states.
After a variety of stakeholders have so far failed to reach consensus in Michigan over the value of solar energy, some Republican lawmakers are looking to end that debate themselves.