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Net Metering For Renewable Energy Systems

Net metering programs serve as an important incentive for consumer investment in on-site renewable energy generation. Net metering enables customers to use their own generation from on-site renewable energy systems to offset a portion of their electric energy consumption.  When they generate electricity in excess of their demand, the energy going backwards through the meter is recorded and credited against the customer’s monthly electricity purchases.

RECC’s Net Metering policy makes it easy for a typical member to invest in renewable energy technologies. A qualified renewable system can be interconnected to the member’s electrical system, which is also connected to Rural Electric’s distribution and transmission system. When the generator is producing power, it can provide energy for the home or business, reducing the amount of energy purchased.

If the generator makes less power than the amount being consumed by the member, any needed electricity comes from the cooperative. If the generator produces more power than needed at the time, any extra kilowatt hours (kWhs) go back through the electric meter and is credited to the member. When the power used exceeds the generator output, the member uses the “banked” kWhs and is not charged for that energy.

RECC offers the Net Metering policy for approved systems up to 10 kilowatts (KW) in capacity. A 10-KW wind or solar generator may be able to produce most of the electricity needed for the average residential member. Members would still pay the monthly Facilities Charge for their electric service provided by the cooperative.

Why is Net Metering Needed?
Intermittent generators, such as solar- and wind-based generators, only produce electricity when their energy source is available (e.g. when the sun shines or the wind blows). Conversely, when their energy source is not available, intermittent generators do not produce power (and may even consume small amounts of electricity for their power electronics). Members’ electrical use varies through the day and night, and may not match up with the generator’s output.
Therefore, sometimes generator owners are importing power from the grid (consuming more power than they are generating on-site), and other times they are exporting power to the grid (generating more power than they are consuming on-site). Net Metering allows these members to financially balance out the total amount of energy imported with the total amount of energy exported over the monthly billing period. The member is only billed (or credited) for the net difference between these two amounts.

What Systems Qualify For Net Metering?
Because the renewable generators are tied to the electric distribution grid, there are stringent safety and reliability concerns that must be addressed. The generating equipment must meet national standards, and be installed properly. An Interconnection Agreement must be submitted for approval before the generator can be connected to the electrical system, and an on-site inspection by co-op representatives. Owners also must carry adequate liability insurance, and pay a one-time fee for the application processing, inspection, and special meter installation.

Why is there a 10-KW limit for Net Metering?
We want RECC members to have the opportunity to produce clean, renewable energy for their premises. These generators do affect the operation of our distribution system, and we are limiting the total capacity of installed generation as we learn about the potential effects and effective strategies for accommodating this intermittent power production.

By limiting the connected systems to 10 KW, we can extend the number of systems allowed and avoid potential problems with too much intermittent power being put into our rural distribution lines. The RECC Board of Directors has approved installation of up to two percent of our system’s peak load in renewable generation, which is about 520 KW of renewable capacity.

How Does Net Metering Work On My Bill?
With the special meter installed by the co-op, two meter readings are available on your monthly billing statement. One reading shows the kWhs coming in from RECC’s lines, and the other reading shows any kWhs that were pushed out to the co-op. The member is billed for the “net” difference for the month.

If the member produces more energy than needed for the month, they are a net exporter, and the extra kWhs are credited or “banked” on the bill. Any Facilities Charges, demand charges, fixed charges or cost of extra services are still applicable.

How long can my “banked” kWhs be saved?
Any banked kWhs are cleared at the end of each calendar quarter (March 31, June 30, Sept. 30, Dec. 31). No payment is made for any kWhs remaining at the end of the quarter.

 

Note: Distributed generation facilities, which are not eligible for Net Metering Services, may alternatively register as Qualifying Facilities in order to sell excess power on the grid at wholesale rates.