01 Dec Build on net energy billing
This letter to the editor was written by Steven Weems, executive director of the Solar Energy Association of Maine. It appeared in the Bangor Daily News on December 1, 2020 and explores solar net metering opportunities.
Think globally and act locally. The author of a recent article on solar energy and net-energy billing (Nov. 24 in the BDN, “Maine started a solar power boom that may be a ‘classic climate mistake’”), people quoted in the article and readers should consider this life-sustaining concept.
Residential and local solar projects are sprouting up all over Maine, supported by the practice of net-energy billing. The article presented a one-sided, negative characterization of net-energy billing, which focused on hypothetical lost revenues to Maine’s utilities. This led to criticism that net-energy billing is so successful it is becoming too expensive for ratepayers, which could impede solar energy adoption.
Whoa. Multiple benefits of distributed solar energy were left out. Reduced peak power costs, energy security, citizen support and additional capital to fund clean energy systems were omitted from a long list of benefits. Further, net-energy billing was conceived as an early-stage practice that would be improved in the future, to jumpstart small-scale solar.
Net-energy billing is working as intended. The proof is showing up on rooftops and on the ground, including closed municipal landfills. As anticipated at the outset, it may be time for net-energy billing to evolve into a more sophisticated, technology-based form to encourage local solar projects.
Critics should focus on practical net-energy billing’s improvements, like time-of-use electricity billing and two-way bill credits and debits reflecting the cost and value of energy throughout the day. This would be better than circulating doomsday stories.
Think globally, act locally. Build constructively on a good thing.
Steven Weems, Executive director