Process allows solar users to earn credit for unused power
Congress members Brian Higgins (D-NY-26) and Richard Hanna (NY-22) introduced legislation targeted at providing critical data on the benefits of solar net metering. Under the bill, the U.S. Department of Energy would be tasked with conducting a study on the practice that allows residential solar customers to sell excess energy produced back to the grid at retail rates.
"Access to good information is critical to the effort to provide residential and business consumers with affordable clean energy options," Higgins said. "Net metering is helping to drive the growth of solar power implementation in homes across the United States. A full understanding of the advantages provides a useful tool in protecting consumers and further encouraging reduced energy consumption."
"What we've seen across the country is the rapid growth of the solar industry as an affordable energy source," Hanna said. "With net metering, customers can become energy self-sufficient and return their excess capacity back to the grid in exchange for credits, benefitting all of us."
The cost of solar power installation today is just half of what it was just five years ago. With increased affordability, the sale of residential rooftop solar systems continues to grow. Through the end of 2014, more than 640,000 homes and business had installed on-site solar.
"Solar customers come from across the political spectrum, and they will be happy to see a bipartisan rooftop solar bill move through Congress," SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said. "To understand the true value of rooftop solar to our country's energy supply, you have to consider the full range of benefits, including the creation of local solar jobs and solar's ability to complement the antiquated utility infrastructure that we all have to pay for."
Net metering, which is currently in place in all but six states, has been vital to the growth of the rooftop solar industry. Under the practice of net metering, customers are only billed for their net energy use and any additional energy production is added to the energy grid providing the consumer with credit toward future energy consumption. Residential consumers operating under net metering will see their electric meter run backward when they make more power than they use.
However, Higgins' camp said state and utility policies and regulations threaten the future of net metering and the direct benefits it provides to consumers. Some proposals would credit unused energy at a lower rate than energy consumed. In other cases, proposed fees would de-incentivize the transition to residential solar altogether.