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Utilities Reach Net Metering Cap On Customer-Generated Power

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Wilson Ring
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AP
Solar panels on the McKight Farm in East Montpelier are part of one of the many net metering projects across the state that sell customer-created power back to utilities. Now, utilities have reached a 15 percent cap on the amount of power they can take.

Net metering allows utility customers to generate their own power from renewable energy sources – like solar and wind – and sell excess power to utility companies.

But some utilities are reaching the 15 percent of peak load cap on net metered power that they get from residential and commercial renewable energy sources.

Vermont’s largest electric utility, Green Mountain Power, says it is reaching the limit for net metering projects. The company has filed with the Vermont Public Service Board asking for a strategic limited expansion of net metering through 2016.

GMP’s Kristin Carlson says the utility will continue to accept net metering applications for projects under 15 kilowatts. Typically those are rooftop- or ground-mounted solar systems for a single home or business.

GMP wants to allow for a total of 7.5 megawatts of larger community solar projects. Carlson says that will allow homes and businesses that can't site solar on their own properties to join together with landowners who can host a project. 

“The projects that will go to those 7.5 megawatts, those community projects are going to be sized at 150 kilowatts or smaller and we’re asking it to be tied, pending public Service Board approval, to the fact that it will help the landowner cover their own power usage,” Carlson says.

Carlson says the utility has also created a color-coded map showing where solar development is happening in the state.

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Credit Screenshot from Green Mountain Power's Solar Map
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Screenshot from Green Mountain Power's Solar Map
Green Mountain Power created the map to depict the density of solar projects in certain regions of the state.

“We created a color-coded system that shows where there is room and capacity for new solar and where the grid might be approaching capacity,” she explained.

GMP isn’t the only utility reaching the cap. Vermont Electric Cooperative is closing their net metering program to new applications.

“We are full up. We’ve reached our cap,” says Andrea Cohen of Vermont Electric Cooperative.

“Right now we’re paying 18 or 19 cents for folks who are doing net metering and that’s way higher than the market rate. So we’re looking for that to get a little more in line so that as a nonprofit cooperative we can afford to have everyone have solar who wants it.” - Andrea Cohen, Vermont Electric Cooperative

Cohen says the co-op’s board has decided to wait and see what the net metering rules will be in 2017.

“We’re hoping, frankly, that we won’t need any cap. Our goal would be that there’s no cap and that the pricing for net metering is sustainable,” she explains. “Right now we’re paying 18 or 19 cents for folks who are doing net metering and that’s way higher than the market rate. So we’re looking for that to get a little more in line so that as a nonprofit cooperative we can afford to have everyone have solar who wants it.”

According to Public Service Department data, Hardwick, Hyde Park, Jacksonville and Washington Electric Cooperative are also approaching or above the 15 percent net metering cap.

The Public Service Board will consider a new net metering program for 2017.