As States Examine Solar Policies, Net Metering Faces ‘Unprecedented Uncertainty’


Forty-six states took some form of solar policy action in 2015, and almost 30 of them considered or enacted changes to net-metering rules, according to a new report.

The report, released by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center in conjunction with Meister Consultants Group Inc., provides insights on state regulatory and legislative discussions and actions on distributed solar policy, with a focus on net metering, community solar, residential fixed charges, residential solar charges, third-party ownership and utility-led rooftop solar programs.

According to the report, the following happened in 2015:

– 24 states formally examined or resolved to examine some element of the value of distributed generation;
– Seven states had policy action on community solar;
– 61 utilities in 30 states proposed increasing monthly fixed charges on all residential customers, with the median increase requested being $5 per month;
– 21 utilities in 13 states proposed adding new or increasing existing charges specific to rooftop solar customers;
– Six states had policy action on third-party solar ownership laws or regulations; and
– Five states had action on utility-owned rooftop solar policies or programs.

“With more than 200,000 Americans working in good-paying solar jobs, solar has been a true success story for our recovering economy. However, this report demonstrates that critically important state policies like net-metering are experiencing unprecedented uncertainty, as many states considered drastic policy changes in 2015,” says Benjamin Inskeep, co-author of the report and energy policy analyst at the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center. “If we want to continue to increase the amount of electricity we generate from clean energy and keep these good jobs in our communities, then it is paramount that solar policies fairly treat – not penalize – folks who go solar.”

The report also focuses on key solar policy actions that occurred in the fourth quarter of last year.

According to the report, a total of 103 state and utility-level distributed solar policy and rate changes were proposed, pending or enacted in the fourth quarter, including 28 ongoing or approved net-metering policy changes in 17 states.

Furthermore, proposals by 35 utilities to increase fixed charges on residential customers were pending or decided by the end of the fourth quarter. In general, approved increases in the quarter were considerably below the requested amount, says the report, and 16 utilities in 11 states sought charges or fees that were specific to solar or net-metering customers.

The report adds that nine states were studying policies like net metering or the value of electricity generated by solar, with the Tennessee Valley Authority concluding a stakeholder group discussion on the value of distributed generation that began in 2014.

Kathryn Wright, consultant at Meister Consultants Group and a report co-author observes, “The last quarter of 2015 has demonstrated that states and utilities are responding to the increase in distributed generation in radically different ways. Nevada’s decision to roll back net metering and California’s continued support of retail rate net metering illustrate the stark contrast.”

The full report, the fourth-quarter edition of “The 50 States of Solar” report, is available here.

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