Net Meter Me in Another Load of Firewood Already: Two Quick Things Are Different About the New Solar Policy

There are two major changes with the new approach from what we have today. They’re both related to the scenario in which you make more electricity than you use (every sensible solar install in Maine does that in the summertime, so as to store up some credits for the winter. It’s like getting your firewood in. Except no one says to their teenager, net meter me in another armload of firewood already). That extra or ‘exported’ electricity from the summer time, which is more than you can use at your home or business at that particular moment, is what we want to take advantage of. It’s what represents the value that is left Net metering setupon the table – uncaptured – now. So, the two major changes, aimed at capturing that value:

  1. If you make more electricity than you use, today we credit you in kilowatt-hours (a typical home in Maine with a family of four, an electric water heater and a beer fridge uses about 10,000 kw-hrs in a year. A typical solar install with 5 or so panels can easily make that much power). But in the new thing, we will credit you in dollars. Why? Crediting in dollars instead of kW-hrs works for large commercial users, who have complex energy bills full of charges that aren’t kW-hrs; so crediting in those doesn’t help. We need large commercial users to build solar, because electricity gets made real cheap when they do. So, switching to dollars is good.
  2. If you make more than you use, and I know you do, that power, that wonderful, clean solid state renewable solar energy which has value more than just for power but also for renewable energy credits(a kind of clean energy tag, called REC’s), is sent out to the grid for other users. That’s great. They get clean power, and we use less fossil fuels. But we don’t capture the renewable energy credits, which are selling for $40/megawatt in Massachusetts. We just let those RECs, which could be saving money for other Maine ratepayers who don’t have solar, go to waste. The new approach fixes that. And that is good too.