If you are a customer with solar on your rooftop, maybe you don’t sit around mulling the AC waveform quality on the distribution grid that connects to your home or business.
But your utility does, and that’s just the point of a new brief from the IEE, an institute of the utility industry group The Edison Foundation.
The paper, Value of the Grid to DG Customers, lacks subtlety in its point, repeatedly noting that customers with solar PV need to “pay their fair share.” It brusquely points out the services that nearly all solar customers still use the grid for, whether they realize it or not, such as frequency regulation and voltage control.
“The balancing and backup services that the grid provides to DG customers are needed and have substantial value,” writes the paper’s author, Lisa Wood.
This scenario is already playing out in various states, but the IEE paper argues that the fight to overhaul net metering needs to happen everywhere, and soon. Wood describes three basic buckets of changes to net metering that have already been adopted, such as redesigned retail tariffs (such as in APS territory), Austin Energy’s Value of Solar tariff, and standby charges. The brief does not bring any fresh ideas of how to make meaningful reform to the table.
But a tweak to net metering plans, which are coming one way or another, could just be scratching at the surface of what’s really needed. Last year, Ron Binz, who just withdrew his nomination to be the next chairman of FERC, told Greentech Media that utilities are not necessarily compensated for doing the right thing to get to a clean energy economy. For example, the entire rate-based system of return should be re-examined -- and likely overhauled in many jurisdictions.
In a recent article in Greentech Media, Ron Lehr suggests a more comprehensive regulatory overhaul, such as the U.K.’s RIIO model or what he describes as the Iowa model. No matter what the solution turns out to be, the thinking must be big, and should not just focus on fighting net metering.
“Current business models were developed for a different time,” wrote Lehr. “A modern electricity grid will require a new social compact between utilities, regulators and the public.”