Hawaii and California grapple over net energy metering.
Bruce Radford is executive editor of Public Utilities Fortnightly. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The start of this year saw a new chapter opened in the revolution we know as rooftop solar.
In mid-January, within a week of each other, the two states most impacted by the dramatic drop in the cost of photoelectric (PV) solar panels, and most embroiled in controversies that have ensued - Hawaii and California - found the stakes raised yet another notch.
The battle in each state became fully joined over the future of net energy metering (NEM). That's the policy that allows ratepayers to generate electricity on their own behalf and then sell any unused excess back to the local utility for a credit equal to the applicable tariffed retail rate.
In Hawaii, the state's three largest electric utilities, known collectively as the Hawaiian Electric Companies, or HECO (serving Oahu, Maui, and the "Big Island") proposed to the state public utilities commission (PUC) to effectively repeal net energy metering. HECO would replace NEM with a transition tariff ("TDG") that would cut the rate credit for solar power sold back to the grid by a factor of about 50 percent - from the full retail utility rate down to the avoided cost of the fuel. (HECO Motion for NEM Program Modification, Haw. PUC Docket No. 2014-0192, filed Jan. 20, 2015.)