Solar, utility companies clash over changes to net metering
In the sunny Southwest, a fight between utilities and solar companies is heating up, casting a shadow over future renewable energy growth.
At stake are revisions to net metering, a key incentive for rooftop solar installations in the United States. Under these policies, the utility gives the homeowner a credit for the energy his rooftop photovoltaic panels put onto the grid that is subtracted from the electricity his home uses when the sun isn't shining.
Currently, 43 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories have net metering policies in place, with differing capacity limits. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, all public utilities are required to offer net metering to customers upon request.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the number of residential net-metered utility customers exploded from almost zero in 2003 to more than 300,000 in 2012. Falling panel prices, coupled with attractive incentives, expanded the market for rooftop solar. Last month, even the White House installed a rooftop solar array.
This rapid growth is leading some utilities to rethink rules favoring solar energy, citing unexpected consequences and issues of fairness. But rooftop solar developers are aggressively pushing back, accusing utilities of attempting to quash an emerging competitor and entrenching their energy monopoly.
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