Net metering legislation possible (maybe) this term

Renewable energy advocates and others believe that the New York legislature may pass net metering legislation this term. The legislature, set to recess June 23, doesn’t have much time.

Net metering allows the delivery of excess energy produced by small, distributed facilities (e.g., solar panels on the roof of a house, wind turbines on a farm or home) to the grid. Owners of such small-scale facilities can spin their electric meter “backwards”: when they produce more energy than they consume, extra power is sent back to the power company for credit. Power companies receiving such clean energy conceivably can rely less on traditional power generation facilities, such as natural gas, coal or nuclear.

New York’s current net metering status is poor. See, for instance, the “Freeing the Grid” Report 2007 from Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Network for New Energy Choices, Vote Solar Initiative, and the Solar Alliance, which grades New York a “D” in the net metering category (and “C” for interconnection, an essential component of net metering which determines the way in which those who are net-metered may connect to the grid).

Currently, only residential homeowners and farmers are allowed to net meter and then only up to 25-kilowatts (kW) (residential wind) or 125-kW (farm-based wind). As a point of comparison, New York state may require in excess of 30,000 megawatts (MW) on any given hot day this summer. (NYISO says the load is 22,369 MW as this entry is posted.) Common wind-turbines of a scale suitable for many farms have a capacity larger than 125 kW.

Net metering bills under consideration in the New York Assembly and Senate would open up net metering to more participants (schools, businesses, farms, etc.) and also allow for bigger generation facilities. Assembly Bill No. A09902 , for instance, would raise the size of eligible technology systems (including wind) to 2 MW; allow all customer classes (not just residential or agriculture) to engage in net metering, and remove the cap on the amount of on-site generation eligible for net metering within each utility territory.

One could expect that net metering legislation should increase the amount of renewable energy on the grid. Net metering can potentially help to reduce the time to recoup the cost of installation of solar or wind facilities by as much as half.

Nice recent article on the prospects of net metering legislation in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. []


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