The Mississippi Public Service Commission has approved a new net metering rule creating a $3,500 incentive for residents who install rooftop solar, per an order released Tuesday.
Regulators capped total annual rebate budgets at $10 million for Entergy Mississippi and $5 million for Mississippi Power Co. According to the new rule, at least 50% of the funds dedicated to the new program must go to low-income customers.
Environmental and solar industry groups say they hope the new program will spur more residents and businesses to install solar in Mississippi, which has historically had little success incentivizing the addition of rooftop solar.
Mississippi is the latest state to revise its net metering rules with social equity in mind. But in a ruling issued earlier this week, the Mississippi PSC took a new approach to increase rooftop solar access for low-income households.
Tuesday’s order calls for the creation of a new program offering $3,500 rebates to residents who install solar systems, with the money potentially payable directly to the installer on proof of completion. The order also permits customers to aggregate multiple meters on a single property to share the potential benefits of rooftop solar, creates incentives for the installation of solar panels at Mississippi schools, and retains an existing 2 cent/kWh added incentive for low-income households that participate in net metering.
Mississippi does not offer one-to-one net metering. Rather, the state’s program, which has been renamed “net renewable generation” by Tuesday’s order, provides for residents to be paid a dollar amount equivalent to the total value of electricity consumed and the value of any excess generation that flows to the grid. Even with an incentive that pays 2 cents/kWh to net metering households earning up to 250% of the federal poverty line, solar installations have lagged in the state. Now, existing customers from that program will be grandfathered into the new program for the next 25 years.
In statements released alongside Tuesday’s order, Mississippi PSC commissioners indicated the bipartisan decision to provide up-front incentives for solar installations was intended to spur job creation and growth in the state’s solar industry.
“Only 547 homes have installed solar in Mississippi, the fourth fewest of any state in the nation,” Will Giese, southeast regional director for the Solar Energy Industries Association said in a statement. The new rules, Giese said, “have the potential to significantly expand rooftop solar adoption and ensure it fits into the budget of families regardless of income level.”
Louie Miller, director of the Mississippi chapter of the Sierra Club, said the rule was “a winner,” in his view, given the large number of Mississippians who qualify as low income.
Access to rooftop solar, he said “has been divided between classes, and we have a lot of low income customers in Mississippi. We think that this is a novel way to approach this by having a rebate on the front end to attract interest from the public.”