Connecticut Senate votes to gut net metering, extend renewable energy mandate

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.