Feds reject plea to regulate utility payments to solar customers


Good afternoon,

One of the ways that small businesses, farms, and homeowners in Delaware and elsewhere can cut their electric costs is a mechanism known as net metering.

Delaware and other states that are working to get a larger percentage of their electricity from renewable sources are fans of the system that pays customers for excess power fed into the grid.

Utilities dislike net metering, which can add to the costs of managing the grid.

Others argue that net metering is a factor in the region’s high electricity rates.The thinking is that wholesale electric costs are dirt cheap these days and why mess around with alternative sources that are still more expensive?

Recently, a group that calls itselftheNew England Ratepayers Associationpetitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to take away the regulatory rights of 45 states that offer net metering. FERC deals with federal issues related to power distribution and generation.

The New England association has long argued that net metering amounts to a subsidyfor businesses, homes, and farms that install solar systems, with those not installing solar footing the bill.

A group of Democratic members of Congress that included both of Delaware’s U.S. senators opposed the metering move in a letter to FERC. They were joined by solar companies and other clean energy interests.

It turned out that the federal commissioners weren’t enthused and voted unanimously to deny the petition.

One of the remaining mysteries is why a group that had focused on New England suddenly decided to seek a nationwide change. So far, I have not heard back from the association, which does not disclose its backers.

As Greentech Media notedit did not help that a national trade group representing utilities that have generally opposed net metering declined to support the petition.

For now, at least, a system that can lower electric costs for small businesses and farms remains in place. –Doug Rainey, chief content officer

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