Sunday, February 1, 2015

Greenville and GUC not so green

Thank you for taking the time to read the following discussion about solar energy and the need for the city of Greenville and the Greenville Utilities Commission (GUC) to offer net metering.

The bulk of local residential solar photovoltaic development has come about with the assistance of North Carolina Greenpower .  When a solar system generates power, the system generates Solar Energy Renewable Credits (SRECs).  NC Greenpower and other organizations serve as SREC aggregators that buy and sell the SRECs.  Historically the GUC based solar generators were connected to the grid using a buy all sell all arrangement wherein two electric meters are installed on a structure, one to purchase electric at the going retail rate and another to sell generated electric back the GUC at the wholesale rate.  Residential solar generators would then collect their bills for three months and submit them to NC Greenpower for SREC reimbursement.  Agreements with NC Greenpower are only good for 5 years, they do not renew the contract, and there is no ready market for SRECs after this contract.

Without a market for SRECs, GUC based solar generators remain stuck with a buy all sell all arrangement.  Solar systems designed to produce enough electric for a household continue to have to pay GUC for electric as they only get credited for power generation at the wholesale rate while needing to buy power at the retail rate.  The solution for this is to have net metering.

What is net metering?  Net metering is the process where the utility meter spins one direction for power generation and another direction for power consumption.  Solar generators thus pay only for the power consumed beyond what they produce.

Who supports net metering?  The North Carolina Utilities Commission  (NCUC) mandates net metering for all investor owned utilites.  The United States Department of Energy (USDOE) published Solar Powering Your Communities: A Guide for Local Governments that supports net metering.  The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act supports net metering.

Who does not support net metering?  GUC does not offer net metering.

Why do solar generators want net metering?  Solar generators want net metering to fully capture their investments in renewable energy.  Current buy all sell all generators also have the burden of having to pay GUC a monthly fee for the extra required meter.

Why should the community around us want net metering?  GUC pays only pennies per kilowatt hour.  During peak demand times GUC may pay nearly $20 per kilowatt hour.  Residential retail solar mitigates the need for peak demand purchases, overall lowering demand expenses.  Without net metering it is not economically feasible to install residential solar systems.  If net metering were started it is reasonable to expect an increase in solar installations and thereby the building trades that install and monitor such systems.  Solar electric generation  avoids the need for dirtier forms of generation such as coal and nuclear plants.

How can the community help?  There are many ways to help:
1.  Engage with your local community leaders.
2.  The Pitt County Commissioners send two people to the board of GUC.  Virginia Hardy's term expires June 2015, get involved to have a solar friendly board installed.
3.  Get involved with GUC board members.  One is the city manager for Greenville.  Four are appointed by Greenville City Council.
4.  Push Greenville City Council to send solar friendly board members to GUC.
5.  Greenville City Council member Dr. Richard Croskery is the board liason to GUC.  Please encourage him to support net metering.  His email is:
6.  Share this site with others in the Greenville area that care about renewable energy generation.
7.  Are you willing to put a sign in your yard in support of net metering?  These signs are getting designed and printed over the next several weeks.  Send an email to
8.  Consider a donation to defer costs of signage and a future media campaign.  Email