Thursday, April 17, 2014

Net metering

First an update on our solar.  We remain pleased with system performance.  Overall we think we use more than we generate, especially this past winter.  We have also had electric fencing on and the new garage has increased our demand.  We have kept all the data but not analyzed it to know for sure.  One panel went down, it took us months to figure it out and then months more to get it replaced.  Joe Sheffield of Alternative Energy Concepts has left that company but was gracious to help us with the warranty repair.

We have been using the system for just over 4 years.  We remain with a buy all sell all arrangement.  Our local utility sells us everything we use at the full retail rate.  We have a second meter that the utility purchases electricity we produce at the wholesale rate.  The info we get from the utility indicates that we pay them a fee each month for the second meter.  My wife keeps track of the system generation data and every three months submits the info to NC Greenpower, selling them our renewable energy credits (REC).  The reimbursement rate for our current contract is 15 cents per kwh.  With one year left to go on this contract we are looking at what the future holds for us.

NC Greenpower still purchases RECs but only for 6 cents per kwh.  This would basically eliminate a lot of incentive for new solar installations.  It also changes the payback to us on our current system to perhaps being equal.  A local installer suggested to me that the local utility sells electric at 13 cents per kwh, buys generated power at 7 cents per kwh.  As solar PV generators we have to keep track of the data, submit to NC Greenpower (or another broker in the future), wait for the check to come, and pay for an extra meter each month.  This will be extra frustration and expense on our part with no additional benefit.

There is a solution to this issue that is available in most of the United States.  This solution is called net metering.  One single meter is used to keep track of net energy usage.  If extra power is generated it is credited with the local utility each month.  After a year of use any excess credit is lost, though in some areas different things happen such as the generator getting paid either the wholesale, the retail, or some other rate based upon incentives.  RECs can be kept by either the utility or the generator.

My local utility does not currently offer net metering.  I would like to begin net metering next year.

In 2005 the Attorney General ( I think this is of my local state) in a brief filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) supported the adoption of net metering.    NCUC has the following info about their position regarding net metering:

There is a summary of the above available at the following link:

The United States Department of Energy has a publication called Solar Powering Your Community:  A Guide for Local Governments  (click for this document to open in a new window)

On page 89 of this document is the following:  

They then follow up with the following:

Today I am going to go to my local utilities board meeting to request they start net metering.  My local utility is guided by the local city council so I anticipate going to the city council meeting tonight to also ask for their assistance.

If you are a solar advocate in my area, please contact those you know on the boards of the utility and city council to ask for net metering.  Thank you for your assistance.

4/27/14 update:  NC Greenpower said they do not renew contracts at any rate.
Another company said they would not purchase my RECs.
GUC says they will do a rate study that might get net metering started.
GUC already has rates to buy and sell electric so it seems they could just make the decision to net meter?