27 Oct 2010

THIS is what net metering is coming to . . . at least in Maryland

Written by Jim Pierobon

One of the benefits of owning a solar photovoltaic system in certain states is any electricity generated beyond what the system owner uses earns a credit that the owner can bank and then use to displace grid-supplied electricity. Those savings can add up reducing monthly power bills and shortening the payback period on the cost of a typical home system, which can run well into the five figures.

Image courtesy of GreentechMedia.com

Earlier this year, a well-intentioned state Senator from Maryland and chair of the its Environmental Affairs Committee, Paul Pinsky, introduced legislation designed to improve the state’s net metering statute. By the time legislation passed the Senate and the state House of Delegates it was turned on its head by the state’s investor owned electricity suppliers. The solar and wind industries and allied environmental advocates did not recognize their handiwork quickly enough to ask Gov. Martin O’Malley not to sign it.

Now, rather than earning credits that system owners can’ bank’, the law is poised to undermine net metering, counter to the statute’s intent and Maryland’s push to scale up renewable energy.

Take the case of Paul Verchinski of Columbia, Maryland. He purchased a typical 4 kilowatt system for his single family home (photo), looking forward to possibly eliminating his reliance on electricity from Baltimore Gas & Electric. Under

Paul Verchinski's 4 kilowatt solar system on his roof in Columbia, MD. Photo by Paul Verchinski.

rules now proposed by the Public Service Commission, Verchinski will not be able to carry forward the kilowatt hour credits equal to the value of “retail” electricity delivered to his meter. Instead, the value is to be based on a utility’s cost of wholesale electric energy wherever it operates on the regional power grid and reflected on his monthly bill from BGE. The difference between the two often ranges between 5-7 cents per kilowatt hour. As time-of-use rates take effect with ‘smart’ meters, that spread could double or even triple.

Verchinski estimates the difference between what he thought he would get and what he now stands to receive is $150 and possibly more s electricity rates resume their upward climb.

What does Sen. Pinsky have to say? He told the MarylandReporter.com and carried on TheDailyRecord.com: “Our intent was very clear. We wanted to promote renewable energy. And to allow someone to stand in our way, it is shameless. If (the ruling) goes the way the electric companies want (which it apparently has), I will have to review it — then make changes to the law next year,” Pinksy said.

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