by Emma Foehringer Merchant
January 12, 2021

Solar still accounts for a marginal percentage of overall electricity load in nearly every state in the U.S. But net metering battles, which often pit utility companies against residential-solar advocates over the value of solar, have become increasingly common in recent years, says Autumn Proudlove of North Carolina State University’s Clean Energy Technology Center, which monitors quarterly shifts in state-level clean energy policy.

“Net metering is definitely the biggest topic right now that we’re seeing action on,” said Proudlove, the CETC’s senior policy program director. “And of that, successor tariffs are really where a lot of the focus is.”

While the CETC has tracked net metering policy since 2014, Proudlove has seen a surge in activity in recent years. By her estimate, about half of all U.S. states have or are currently considering a successor tariff to traditional net metering, a policy that determines how solar customers are compensated for the solar power they export to the grid.

This year the issue also made a splash at the federal level when a group called the New England Ratepayers Association filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission arguing in favor of federal jurisdiction over net metering. FERC dismissed the petition in July.  

“You see a fair amount of conflict around net metering policy in various states [and] various markets. They play out a bit differently, but the overall theme is that it remains a struggle to maintain a fair compensation scheme for solar customers,” said Sean Gallagher, the Solar Energy Industries Association’s vice president of state affairs.

Idaho is one example of those struggles, but it certainly is not an isolated case. As distributed solar becomes increasingly common — Wood Mackenzie forecasts 13 percent residential solar growth in 2021 — disagreements may grow over the level at which exported solar should be compensated. Here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy recent net metering battles as 2021 begins.