My take: Solar net metering study a no-brainer

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You may think you see too much commentary in this space involving Legislative Hall. Still, there are are many matters of business interest we’re seeing in 2024.

One example is a resolution introduced last year by State Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown.

Senate Joint Resolution 3 calls for a cost/benefit study by the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility on the impact of net metering – the ability of customers to receive payments from a utility for solar power sent back into the grid.

Net metering provides a powerful incentive to install solar panels. The downside is that the benefits are skewed toward higher-incomes that can enjoy the full benefits. The “roof rental” approach, where energy and cost savings are shared with the installer/provider, is less attractive and has a much longer payback time.

The elderly are also affected in Delaware, a state with one of the nation’s highest average ages. The older population may not live in their homes long enough to enjoy the payback from their solar investment, a major disincentive in the booming Sussex County new home market.

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California has wrestled with a net metering revision that triggered a sharp downturn in residential solar installations and signs that the regulations will take away momentum in installing solar in schools, farms, public buildings, and businesses. Even in less sunny Delaware, a slowdown in solar installations isn’t good news for the economy. As of 2022, solar-related jobs totaled 559.

It’s worth noting that Energize Delaware has a number of programs for businesses and homeowners. Another solution is community solar, installing solar arrays that can provide benefits to lower-income areas.

Community solar requires land or rooftops that may not be available in urban areas. Projects sometimes trigger backyard opposition and concerns about the loss of farmland.

Electoral year politics complicate things further, with climate change skeptics and special interest groups making solar and offshore wind a campaign issue. Never mind that the cost of solar power has dropped sharply over the years, and concerns about its immediate impact on the grid are largely overblown.

You can also add to the list the task of moving larger projects through the PJM machinery, which assesses whether the grid is ready to handle additional generation. The result is a backlog of projects, although PJM has progressed in moving “shovel-ready” developments with financing toward the top of the queue.

The above issues indicate the need for a fast-track study and response to these complex issues.

Hansen’s resolution has picked up one Republican co-sponsor, and there is no reason why this measure should not be quickly passed with its findings used to plot the path forward that will keep the solar industry on a growth track. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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