Net metering is a net benefit

June 24, 2016

Net metering benefits all electricity ratepayers and provides more benefits than it costs.  We've said it time and time again.  So have an increasing number of studies, institutes and academics.  

The most recent voice to join the choir is the Brookings Institute.  They released a paper in May that reviewed a number of studies on the costs and benefits of rooftop solar.  As the authors state: 

So what does the accumulating national literature on costs and benefits of net metering say?  Increasingly it concludes— whether conducted by PUCs, national labs, or academics — that the economic benefits of net metering actually outweigh the costs and impose no significant cost increase for non-solar customers.  Far from a net cost, net metering is in most cases a net benefit—for the utility and for non-solar rate-payers.

The paper also recommends a series of reforms that state utility regulators should make to better align utility business models with an increasingly solar future.  These include:

    • Adopting a rigorous and transparent methodology for identifying, assessing, and quantifying the full range of benefits and costs of distributed generation technologies
    • Undertaking and implement a rigorous, transparent, and precise “value of solar” analytic and rate-setting approach that would compensate rooftop solar customers based on the benefit that they provide to the grid. 
    • Implementing a well-designed decoupling mechanism that will encourage utilities to promote energy efficiency and distributed generation technologies like solar PV, without seeing them as an automatic threat to their revenues. 
    • Moving towards a rate design structure that can meet the needs of a distributed resource future. 
  • Moving towards a performance-based utility rate-making model for the modern era.

Of these, Massachusetts has only implemented one of these reforms: a decoupling mechanism.  Unless we align utility business models with an increasingly solar future, utilities like National Grid and Eversource will continue to fight solar, keep net metering caps in place and seek the imposition of solar fees and minimum bills.