Saturday, March 29, 2008

Net Metering for Gross Profit

Net metering is good. With net metering, someone with a rooftop solar panel producing more power than they use gets credit on their utility bill for the surplus sent to the grid. This is key to inducing people to produce power at their place.

Net metering needs to be everywhere and it needs to be easy. Thirty five states currently allow net metering, and it is required with the passage of the 2005 Energy Act.

In Texas this week, the Public Utility Commission held off on enacting net metering regulations because of public concern that the rules being considered wouldn't really promote net metering. Take some time to get the rules right, but get net metering out there.

The rules should make it easy to net meter at your house. If special meters and disconnects are needed, the utility should provide them cheerfully, without cost, to the on-site power producer (distribute those costs across all users, maybe). If utilities are reluctant to implement, fearing they'll lose revenue if they're not the ones making the power, create pricing mechanisms where utilities profit by re-selling home-grown power. (You'd think utilities could find a way to make money when others are funding the added power plants, especially if those plants make peak use power).

Given the manifold benefits of distributed energy, we need net metering to be easy and profitable for both utility companies and the new power producers.