New federal policies portend a wave of demand-response programs, and perhaps a new era in resource planning.
When President Bush signed the energy bill on August 8, he set in motion a chain of events that might lead to major changes in the way utilities price and meter retail electric services—and ultimately in the way they value and use non-traditional energy resources.
Specifically, the electricity title of the legislation includes three provisions that shift federal policy toward greater flexibility and price responsiveness for retail customers. Title XII amends the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) to require electric utilities to offer time-based metering to all customers, directing state commissions to investigate time-based metering and decide whether to implement the federal standards. Additionally, the title requires electric utilities to provide net-metering service for any customer that requests it, and to make available interconnection service for customer-owned distributed-generation (DG) systems on a non-discriminatory basis (see sidebar “Rooftop Revolution?”).
Net metering allows customers with rooftop solar and other onsite power-generation equipment to get credit against their bills for excess power fed into the grid. While the net-metering provisions are unlikely to create a massive DG groundswell, they might prove significant for utilities operating in states like California, which is embarking on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1 million solar roofs program.