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Bills would restore net metering for solar roof customers

Courtesy of Kate Madigan

Some state legislators aren't happy with a recent decision by the Michigan Public Service Commission to end net metering.

So they've introduced a set of bills to restore it.

Net metering was a method used to compensate residential utility customers with solar roofs.  The solar panels can often produce more electricity than the customer needs, so it goes onto the grid.

Net metering customers would get a credit for their excess electricity equal to the utilities' own rates.  

The Michigan Public Service Commission recently agreed with utilities' arguments that the solar customers weren't paying their fair share of maintaining the grid, so the commission approved a method of payment that would let utilities pay solar roof customers less.

A bipartisan group of legislators including Republican State Representative Gary Glenn and Democratic State Representative Yousef Rabhi disagrees with the commission's decision. 

They say solar roof customers are actually putting something on the grid that is of more value than what the utility provides.  That's because solar roofs frequently make additional electricity available to the grid when it's most in demand and most expensive, in the summer.

The legislation would restore net metering for three years, and after that allow utilities to decide either to keep the net metering method, or adopt a new method that takes both grid upkeep costs and peak demand costs into consideration.  It's possible that such a new method could force utilities to pay solar roof customers more for their electricity than the utilities' own rates.

The legislation goes even further.  It lifts the 1% cap on how many customers can install solar roofs and participate in net metering.  Right now, only one utility, UPPCO, in the Upper Peninsula, has hit that cap.  

The bills also increase the size of the solar roof systems that can participate in net metering, as long as the total electricity produced by the customer's roof isn't more than the customer's own use of electricity in the past 12 months.

A hearing on the bills is expected in mid-May.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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