Solar energy advocates and utilities have reached a compromise on net metering in South Carolina. They have filed a proposal with the South Carolina Public Service Commission that will clear the way for for implementing several provisions of the Distributed Energy Resource Program Act adopted this year by the S.C. General Assembly, as reported by the Charlotte Business Journal.
The provisions of the plan include:
- new incentive programs to be developed by utilities to encourage customers to install solar panels on homes and small commercial buildings.
- allowing solar developers to build projects and lease them to residents and businesses, avoiding the upfront cost of installing solar power on their home or business.
The issue is net metering for solar. The S.C. Coastal Conservation League contends the current method for calculating the value of solar power underestimates the actual monetary advantage of producing less carbon, reducing line losses in the transmission of power and other features of small solar projects distributed across the system, the Journal reported.
Utilities say the current method also fails to account for the costs imposed on other customers when solar power users get to avoid paying for infrastructure such as power lines, switching stations and power-generation plants, which are currently built into retail rates.
The new law instructs regulators to take all of that into account in arriving at a more accurate price for solar power generation.
Also under the compromise, until the end of 2020, the utilities can recoup the costs of difference in what they pay for the power and what it is worth, accounting the roughly 4 cents difference as an incentive paid for the solar power, the Journal wrote. That incentive cost will be recoverable by utilities through charges to all residential and small commercial customers. The net metering value of solar will then be recalculated in 2020.