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Here in North Carolina, the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) requires the state’s two investor-owned utilities—Duke Energy and Dominion North Carolina Power—to make net metering available to customers that own and operate systems that generate electricity using solar, wind, hydro, ocean, or biomass systems. There are actually more options for entering net metering arrangements based on power generation, and you can check them out here:dsire usa.  It has been the standard that customers may net meter under any available rate schedule, however, customers that choose to take service under any tariff other than a time-of-use (TOU) demand tariff must surrender to the utility all renewable energy credits (RECs) associated with the customer’s generation- with no compensation for the customer.

 For the sake of ease, from here on out- we will simply address net metering as an arrangement between utilities and solar power producers (see many options beyond solar at above link). Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid. It is ultimately a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on their rooftop- it may generate more electricity than the home uses during the daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use. On average, only 20-40% of a solar energy system’s output ever goes into the grid.

 Net metering allows utility customers to generate their own electricity cleanly and efficiently. As well, net metering provides substantial statewide economic benefits in terms of jobs, income and investment. Net metering increases demand for solar energy systems- which in turn create jobs for the installers, electricians and manufactures who work in the solar supply chain. Currently, the solar industry employs nearly 143,000 American workers in large part due to strong state net metering policies which have allowed the solar industry to thrive. As well, in a world that is increasingly faced with cheap, dirty power- supporting any and all renewable energy efforts make sense.

 It all sounds pretty great- right? The challenge comes as some utilities perceive net metering policies as lost revenue opportunities. The reality is that net metering policies create a smoother demand curve for electricity and allow utilities to better manage their peak electricity loads. By encouraging generation near the point of consumption, net metering also reduces the strain on distribution systems and prevents losses in long-distance electricity transmission and distribution.

 Earlier this year, Duke’s North Carolina President, Paul Newton, made remarks to a legislative committee about reviewing and changing the net metering rules. While Duke Energy and other utilities have yet to file proposed changes to net-metering at the North Carolina Utilities Commission, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association’s (NCSEA) motion to address the market disruption caused by Duke’s statements earlier this year is still pending before the Utilities Commission. NCSEA asked current net-metering customers to file statements at the NC Utilities Commission to preserve the current rules. Other organizations have also asked the public to file statements in support of the current rules for net-metering. For more information on the landscape of net metering and renewable energy issues, visit the NCSEA at http://energync.org/

 Action You Can Take

 North Carolina is currently a national leader in the production of solar energy, boasting more than 2,400 solar energy jobs. As more people choose to use self-generated rooftop solar, the lower the amount of power we collectively purchase from the utilities, and the fewer the new, costly power plants the utilities would need to build.

 As of March 17, 2014, over 150 statements were filed at the NC Utilities Commission opposing changes to net metering. If you are a solar adopter, a net-metering customer, or have a job in the solar industry and want to preserve the option to self-generate, then write an email to the “Chief Clerk of the Commission” subject line “Docket E-100, Sub 83:Net Metering” to stake your position in the discussion.

Let them know that you DO NOT support changes to net metering.  Please send these emails to statements@ncuc.net. Thank you for taking action on this important issue.

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