What Will Net Metering Look Like Next Year?

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Net metering has been a hot topic over the past year as rooftop solar has continued to gain popularity with customers throughout the country. By allowing customers to sell electricity back to the grid at a set price, net metering has greatly sped up the adoption of rooftop solar.

While utilities have complied with the public interest and set up net metering in 44 states, including Washington D.C., they have repeatedly argued that it can be unfair to people not going solar. As a result, limits have been placed on net metering in most states with caps on the total amount of power capacity that is eligible for net metering. Additionally, net metering pays out different amounts in each state, not necessarily at the retail rate. By lowering the rate drastically enough, utilities can greatly reduce the appeal of net metering.

At Solar Power International this year, Justin Barnes, a senior analyst for Keyes, Fox & Wiedman LLP, took a quick look at net metering by state to give an idea of what 2015 may hold. Barnes outlined 11 states where key changes to net metering are likely to happen next year. They include, in no particular order: Nevada, Washington, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Wisconsin may catch people’s eyes, as currently utilities there are pressing hard against net metering.

Barnes also outlined a further 10 states in which changes to net metering are somewhat likely to happen next year. These include Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Hawaii, and Maine. Again, a few of these probably ring a bell — for instance, Colorado, where customers have been pushing back against Xcel. That utility is currently attempting to change net metering policy in the state.

One last point Barnes made was about the caps on net metering. While different states have different caps, and pay out different amounts, it does not appear that any state will reach its cap in the upcoming year. Even with potential changes looming, this is good news for people who are looking to go solar but have not yet pulled the trigger on it.

Good news is welcome considering that the fight over net metering has gotten nasty at times, with utility representatives trying to rally support from groups like the Black Caucus and dark money playing a role in elections that have implications for solar. The fight shows no signs of slowing down, though so far solar has been mostly victorious. While the minimum utility bill idea holds out promise in resolving some net metering battles, the debate seems to be shifting to rate design, which is of course intimately connected with net metering.

In California, we’re watching to see what will happen next year with net metering. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is on the hook to determine the shape of Net Metering 2.0 by December 2015. This could set the stage for what happens in other states.