Solar technology and installations are on the rise–more bankable installs and more efficient components have resulted in exponential growth. Over the past decade, industry related jobs have skyrocketed as well and the industry as a whole seems to be trending upwards nationally. The forecast also looks good here in Florida, especially with the defeat of Amendment 1 (see: Amendment 1 blog).
As excitement builds for solar, several aspects are crucial to its success. One such aspect is the relationship with utilities. Relationships between solar and utilities have clashed throughout the years and many topics have been discussed. Perhaps no topic between solar and utilities has been the source of conflict as the topic of net metering.
NET METERING: WHAT IS IT?
According to Energy.gov, net metering is defined as, “The practice of using a single meter to measure consumption and generation of electricity by a small generation facility (such as a house with a wind or solar photovoltaic system). The net energy produced or consumed is purchased from or sold to the power provider, respectively.”
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) cites that, “For example, if a resident customer has a PV system on the home’s rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against the electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output.” Less than half of a PV system’s output will reach the grid, but of that exported energy, neighboring customers will the recieve excess loads (Source: Crossborder Energy).
The process of net metering, however, actually begins as the sun hits the solar photovolatic (PV) panels. Next, the inverter converts direct current (dc) electricity from the PV array to alternating current (ac). Energy is then consumed at the residence. The utility meter then records energy usage and excess energy produced. Unused excess energy returns to the grid, and needed energy consumed by residents comes from the grid.
Regarding net metering, unused excess energy results in credits that utilities must reimburse customers. Thankfully, we as Floridians can take advantage of such policies and keep more of our own power (and money)!
FLORIDA NET METERING AND CREDITS
Although Florida utilizes net metering policies (authorized by the Public Service Commission), some states do not, and policies vary from state to state. Even within Florida, net metering policies differ among utility entities. Customers will be prompted to fill applications and interconnection/net metering agreements. Below are a few companies in Florida and their policies/information:
TECO Net Metering
Withlacoochie Net Metering
As aforementioned, utilities may have different policies. For example, FPL offers credits back at wholesale rates and accumulated credits throughout the year are applied to a customer’s January bill. Withlacoochie also offers credits at wholesale rates, but sends a check to customers once a year if they have accumulated energy credits.
UTILITIES: THE DEBATE
Net metering does have its opponents, chiefly utilities. Some argue that solar installations “will increases costs to the grid that surpass the value of the power.” The rate at which utilities reimburse customers has been a source of contention as well, with many utilities reimbursing customers with credits at wholesale rates as opposed to retail rates. Many states have debated net metering sharply, such as Arizona, California, and New York. However, it is the state of Nevada and its net metering policies that should alert Floridians, as Nevada now incorporates net metering credits at wholesale rates. In a sense, it is as if utilities are punishing solar companies and those going solar with wholesale rate reimbursement while using the excess energy the solar customer generated to supply neighbors with energy.
Although solar companies and utilities have debated much over net metering, overall the relationship is harmonious. After all, the utilities own the grid and the infrastructure; solar “rents” the lines in most cases. Christina Jackson, of Bay Area Solar Solutions LLC affirms, “I’ve never had a bad experience with utilities. I think we’ll always need utilities.” If rooftop solar is going to grow as expected, it will need utilities.”
The benefits of net metering in Florida are good for the time being. Solar customers are eligible for credits if they produce excess energy throughout the year. Additionally, SEIA asserts that net metering’s benefits include “enhanced reliability and resiliency of the electric system, land use benefits, air quality benefits, and local economic benefits.” Yes, some utilities reimburse those credits at wholesale rates as opposed to retail rates, but we have not reached the level of Nevada’s policies… yet. The time to act on solar is now in Florida while net metering is still available, thus more power back to you!
Need more information on going green and ready to take the next step? We are here for you at Bay Area Solar Solutions LLC, where your solar needs come first!