- Solar advocates pressed the Vermont Senate Finance Committee last week to alter the state's net metering laws in order to allow larger projects to take advantage of better power pricing.
- Vermont limits the size of net-metered projects to 500 kW, but the solar industry wants to be able to group these arrays and still take advantage of retail rate net metering, which is currently prohibited. Renewables advocates say the change would improve the value proposition of solar and help hospitals, schools and towns generate their own power.
- Vermont's utilities, VT Digger reports, oppose the change. They say that paying retail rate for solar from the grouped arrays would cost them more than the existing competitive bidding program
Renewable power is expanding rapidly in Vermont, but solar advocates say changes to the state's net metering laws would enable even more solar generation. While the state currently limits net-metered projects to 500 KW, changes proposed to the state Senate would allow larger facilities to qualify and for generating projects to be constructed closer together.
Utilities are worried larger net metering projects will drive up the cost of power. But Luke Shullenberger, a managing partner at Green Lantern Group, which wants to construct larger projects, told the news site VT Digger that state law would keep additional generation from being an issue.
The state caps net-metered power utilities can purchase at 15% of peak load. “The simple math says whether the projects are sprinkled around Vermont or clustered together, the net impact to the ratepayers [is] the same," Shullenberger told the website.
Utilities say they currently purchase power from solar arrays using a competitive bidding program at about 11 cents per kWh, while they pay 19-20 cents for net metered electricity, VT Digger reported.
The Vermont Public Service Department issued a report last year finding the state's net metering program is growing fast, with renewable power generated under the tariff doubling since 2012.
According to the report, the number of systems applying for net metering permits annually has grown by a factor of more than seven since 2008. That rapid growth has driven not only the overall number of net metered systems but also the total growth of permitted net metered system capacity to 57.2 MW, Vermont regulators determined in October.