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The Case for Net-Metering

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Wes Golomb,

March 8, 2022

One of the historical limitations on the use of Solar (electric) Photovoltaic systems is storage of electricity. Batteries are available for short term outages or overnight use, but they are expensive. There is another option called Net Metering, where you are hooked up to the grid. When you produce excess electricity it is put onto the grid and runs your meter backwards when you need more electricity than you produce, you draw it from the grid.

Net Metering rules are different in every state. When I first added solar the rules were you put one kilowatt onto the grid, you get one credit. Those rules have since been changed so that new users get less than one credit.

Utilities claim Net-metering lowers their gross sales and profits. BUT they are a PUBLIC utility and we’re in a climate crisis that can only be mitigated by cutting down on carbon. Clearly if the goal is trying to limit carbon emissions, solar is a better alternative than oil, gas and coal. If the utility truly serves the interests of their customers, then they should acknowledge and promote solar and strong net metering policies.

Under normal circumstances, the utilities supply energy from their least expensive sources. When demand gets high they have to fire up less efficient plants that cost more to operate. Of course those expenses are passed on to us in the form of higher prices. In the case of my home state, The Merrimack Station (Bow) power plant, whose emissions vastly exceed clean-air standards, is a standby plant, and.does generate more profits to Eversource than net metering would, but costs the customers far more.

About 20 to 25 years ago the peak power generation time went from the winter to the summer as temperatures got hotter and air conditioners got cheaper. Most of the peak times now are on the hottest sunniest days. Those are exactly the days that my solar panels are slamming excess electrons onto the grid. There are at least 5 houses within sight of mine that are grid connected that don’t have solar so the electrons I put on the grid only go a few hundred feet. According to a Granite Geek newspaper, one hour of run time for the Merrimack Station spews more carbon than you do in 25 years! At times of high demand Eversource has two choices: fire up the most costly, polluting generating methods like the Merrimack Station or provide the energy through carbon free solar generation.

Which brings me back to my questionwho do the utilities represent? Eversource claimed that the ‘free market’ would bring the prices down. It hasn’t happened; in fact, they just got a 30% increase, and are among the highest electric prices in the country. They oppose net-metering because it cuts into their profits, which have ballooned from $4.4 million in 2011, to $9.8 million in 2021.

So, what it boils down to is this, Despite the fact that net-metering helps to limit carbon emissions, costs the utilities virtually nothing, and could support the grid at the exact time when demand is highest, utilities don’t want net metering because it cuts into their profits. The carbon costs to society, do not seem to enter into the equation.

The IPCC just (3/1/22) issued its grimmest report. IT makes clear we must do everything we can to decarbonize our society now. Net metering is one of many strategies we can use to quickly cut our fossil fuel consumption. Nature is uncompromising. If we don’t make the cuts, the natural infrastructure we depend upon for profits as usual will likely evaporate, as will the profits.

The Bow Power Plant aka Merrimack Station, spews its wastes.

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