Nov 09: Virtual Net Metering for Community Scale Energy
Currents Fall 2009 Newsletter
In 2008, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law the Green Communities Act (GCA), an enormous new law that will tip the scales towards renewable energy and energy efficiency more than ever before. Mass Energy has been involved with an interesting section of the Act about “virtual net metering.” Many states have net metering, which means that a renewable energy generator is able to make their retail electricity meter run backwards when the wind turbine or solar panels are producing. Before the GCA, Massachusetts net metering law limited qualifying projects to 60 kilowatts of capacity or less (enough to support about 10 homes or a medium-sized business). Now the limit is 2 megawatts per project, or up to 10 megawatts for projects in municipalities. This creates a strong incentive for large solar installations and wind turbines, particularly those owned or operated by cities and towns—meaning that net metering will offer great public benefits throughout the commonwealth. As State Senator Michael Morrissey (D-Quincy) put it, this is a new way for the state to support communities, through the generation of green electricity. For cities and towns that are wise enough to build projects, energy will be a money maker and not a tax taker.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the net metering section of the GCA is that it will allow a customer with a qualifying project who produces more power than they use to transfer “net metering credits” to other ratepayers with the same utility. For example, a wind turbine could be built on one person’s property and a whole group of friends, family, or business associates could share in the project’s output.
The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) will be finalizing the regulations for net metering soon. Mass Energy has been very involved in the DPU proceedings. We have advocated for regulations that would support the notion of community wind projects in particular. In anticipation of the final regulations, we are actively working on projects that would benefit from the section—two wind projects in eastern and western Massachusetts, and four digester gas projects involving dairy farms (capturing methane from cow manure and turning it into green electricity).