McClaughry: Gov. Scott’s net metering cutback

By John McClaughry

Three weeks ago Gov. Phil Scott said at a news conference that he supports cutting price supports for solar photoelectric power. It’s about time.

Wikimedia Commons/Kristoferb

Electric meter

For years Vermont electric utilities have been required to pay a feed in tariff on solar PV electricity. That means that solar farms and homes can sell solar electricity, when there is any, at the retail price, not the wholesale price. That usually means the solar panel owner can pocket 14 to 18 cents per kilowatt-hour compared to the New England wholesale rate of around 5 cents.

Scott’s decision was based on a report by the Department of Public Service, that found that sweetheart deal for net metering benefits the wealthy – something that critics (like EAI) pointed out years ago. The report said that net metering shifts about 9.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of solar power production to non-solar power producers. The Scott-endorsed rollback would return that money to non-producers through credits to monthly power bills over the next 10 years.

The DPS report also said that the feed in tariff provides jobs “but does so in a way that results in economic distortion – less disposable income and less economic activity across Vermont.” It also offers less value to consumers than cheaper unsubsidized power because consumer demand for solar is low when its output is high: “Over the last five years, the energy value of the solar output was worth approximately 8% less than the average wholesale energy price.”

Three cheers for Gov. Scott.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Images courtesy of U.S. Army National Guard/Michelle Gonzalez/CC BY 2.0 and Wikimedia Commons/Kristoferb

6 thoughts on “McClaughry: Gov. Scott’s net metering cutback

  1. Wind and Solar Conditions in New England:

    New England has highly variable weather and low-medium quality wind and solar conditions. See NREL wind map and NREL solar map.
    https://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/100m_wind/awstwspd100onoff3-1.jpg
    https://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/solar/national_photovoltaic_2009-01.jpg

    Wind:

    – Wind electricity is zero about 30% of the hours of the year (it takes a wind speed of about 7 mph to start the rotors)
    – It is minimal most early mornings and most late afternoons/early evenings (peak demand hours), especially during summer
    – About 60% is generated at night, when demand is much less than during the late afternoons/early evenings
    – About 60% is generated in winter.
    – During winter, the best wind month is up to 2.5 times the worst summer month
    – New England has the lowest capacity factor (about 0.262) of any region in the US, except the US South. See URL.
    https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=20112

    Solar:

    – Solar electricity is strictly a midday affair.
    – It is zero about 65% of the hours of the year
    – It is always minimal early mornings and late afternoons/early evenings
    – It is minimal much of the winter
    – It is near zero with snow and ice on the panels.
    – It varies with variable cloudiness, which would excessively disturb distribution grids with many solar systems, as happens in southern California and southern Germany on a daily basis. See Note.
    – During summer, the best solar month is up to 4 times the worst winter month; that ratio is 6 in Germany.
    – New England has the lowest capacity factor (about 0.145, under ideal conditions) of any region in the US, except some parts of the US Northwest.

    If we were to rely on wind and solar for most of our electricity, massive energy storage systems (GWh-scale in case of Vermont) would be required to cover multi-day wind lulls, multi-day overcast/snowy periods, and seasonal variations. See URL.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-energy-lulls-energy-storage-in-germany

  2. As I have always believed that the market is a great place to find out if a product is viable. Phony dollar incentives do not give a real picture. If the item is desirable, it will sell. It’s not rocket sciense.

  3. As I have said for years, this is Social Engineering paid for, as any social engineering always is, by the least able to pay – the Progressive “Trickle-Down Theory”.
    It has made multimillionaires of those like “SunCommon” that jumped on the Government largess 20 years ago.
    It has been well documented that Solar Power has subsidized those upscale individuals and companies that already have the ability to pay.
    In short, Governor Scott has the right idea just not he right time-line. The subsidy called “net-metering” should stop tomorrow.

  4. VT-DPS looking at the  »energy value« is a red herring
    That can be anything, based on the arcane, hair splitting assumptions used.

    Looking at the MONEY is far more important to ratepayers
    No assumptions need to be made.

    Solar has been and still is grossly over subsidized

    Solar electricity is junk electricity, only useful for about 5 hours on a sunny day
    Such junk electricity should be SUBSIDIZED? Are people nuts?

    The State subsidiés should be ended
    The egregious Standard Offer program for multi millionaires should be ended
    The net metering program for upper scale households should be ended

    The money would be much better spent on subsidized highly sealed and highly insulated housing, which would be required to make air source heat pumps more useful.

  5. About 18 c/kWh go to the solar system owner.
    About 3.5 c/kWh go to GMP to cover its “costs”
    Total charged to ratepayers is 21.5 c/kWh
    Those numbers are directly from a list provided by GMP to the VT-DPS
    Remember this is for junk electricity that is only there about 5 hours of a sunny day
    To-day it was NOT SUNNY, yesterday as well.
    DYSFUNCTIONAL Solar electricity could not even exist on the grid without the OTHER generators doing the peaking, filling in and balancing, 24/7/365, year after year.

    The ISO-NE wholesale price is about 5 c/kWh for RELIABLE electricity that is there 24/7/365 year after year, rain or shine, wind or no wind.

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