Utilities have been trying to dismantle net metering, the fundamental policy supporting customer-sited solar, for years. And recently, they appear to be making progress. Following the replacement of net metering in Michigan with compensation based on wholesale rates and a scrapping of the policy in Maine, a bill is advancing in the Connecticut legislature to take the same route.
Late yesterday the Connecticut Senate voted 29-3 to approve Senate Bill 9, which would restructure the state’s renewable energy policies with the contradictory result of setting a relatively ambitious renewable energy mandate while dismantling one of the main policies that would enable the state to meet that mandate with in-state generation.
The bill would extend Connecticut’s Renewables Portfolio Standard to 40% by 2030, from the current 28% by 2020. At the same time, it would replace net metering with a system under which utilities would set rates for excess generation from solar PV based on the wholesale market value of the energy, plus renewable energy credits.
This would apply to all energy not “simultaneously consumed”, meaning that mid-day solar generation would no longer count against a customer’s evening electricity usage, as is the case under net metering.
This is expected to kill the state’s nascent distributed solar market and have severe affects on its solar companies, which at last estimate employed slightly more than 2,000 workers. Two weeks ago an estimated 80 or more workers form 11 solar companies rallied on the State Capitol steps to stop this bill, however this appears to have fallen on deaf ears in the Connecticut Senate.
A group of 14 solar companies and four advocacy organizations have now sent a letter to the State House, pleading with them to either amend or not pass the bill:
It is regretful that the Senate voted to terminate one of the most successful solar energy policies in the nation, net metering. States like Nevada that hastily ended net metering lost thousands of solar jobs and have since reinstated productive policy for distributed generation. Connecticut must not repeat their mistakes.
The signatories to the letter include Sunrun and Vivint, the #1 and #3 largest residential solar installers in the nation, as well as regional installers such as Entersolar and national advocacy organization Vote Solar. Both the Sunrun-backed Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) and Vote Solar appear to have been active in organizing resistance to the bill.
Given that this bill originated in the office of Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy (D), the Connecticut House is likely the solar industry’s last chance to stop this bill.
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The CT action is a page from TVA’s playbook. While Feed In Tariffs were the vehicle that drove the European solar market, TVA has used it as a tool to ensure minimum solar, maximize the favorable PR solar generates.
Early on, TVA’s Green Power Providers (GPP) FIT was excellent. I developed 28 solar schools and nonprofits under the program. But TVA has since gutted GPP until today a system in the program will never pay back or break even.
Today solar customers can install solar “Behind the Meter” without limitation, except TVA will not buy any excess power generated (as in net metering). Thus, the largest viable BTM system will be sized to the MINIMUM power consumption during the year to avoid wasting excess power. Energy storage can increase the size of a practical system, but at a cost that may be too high for our 12¢ power.
As you point out, there is pattern here and TVA leads the pack. Next phase: TVA plans to increase the fixed customer charge by 60% to $350/year, further weakening the justification for solar. Until we all can go off grid, we will be at their mercy. Clearly that is what they have in mind.
Was notified by my CT House rep. Pat Boyd that the bill passed in a close vote in the House as well. No indication IF there will be anything to replace it with or IF there will be a grandfather clause.
I do know that after the lawsuits came fast and furious in Nevada, net metering was reinstated.
I was in the process of building a system on my house and now facing a great unknown. I cant take the risk of cost without some assurance. the design people I am working with assure me I will be grandfathered in but that is still only for 20 years and could be rescinded by some action at the state house. sad to say this project will most likely not go forward
John p, there is a ray of good news, despite my prior comment above about TVA. In Tennessee we have always had the No Net Metering situation you face in CT. Recently I did a study comparing No Solar with two solar systems, one under TVA’s essentially defunct GPP program (similar to net metering, see TVA.gov/ GPP) and an identical system installed “Behind the Meter” (all solar used internally, none exported). I did both 50 kW commercial and 5 kW residential versions of the three approaches. Turns out the no export Behind the Meter configuration financially out-performs the others so dramatically that it has entirely changed my views on whether and how solar is good for everyone. The “someday” when solar is out-classes everything else is here now. I’ll gladly share my study with you and others. Just go to our website http://www.TerraShares.com where you can get my direct eMail.
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