DOE prepares report to Congress on net metering
The Department of Energy is working on a study to Congress weighing the cost and benefits of net energy metering (NEM), a key method of support for distributed rooftop solar.
The report could be consequential for the solar industry. The author of the provision in the Energy and Water appropriations bill for fiscal 2017 did not envision it being conducted by a DOE under the Trump administration.
It was former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who in 2016 asked that the bill include a provision directing DOE “to conduct a study to determine the costs and benefits of net-metering and distributed solar generation to the electrical grid, utilities and ratepayers.”
During his time in the Senate, Reid was a champion of solar energy.
But elections have consequences. And instead of having a potentially favorable report for supporters of solar power written by a Democratic administration, the effort will take place under the guidance of officials with strong loyalties to the coal industry and who have been critical of state policies that support renewables.
The DOE effort is being led by Sean Cunningham, director of the Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis. Cunningham is a former lobbyist for FirstEnergy Corp., the Ohio utility that stands to gain if federal energy regulators respond favorably to DOE’s directive to consider subsidies for coal and nuclear plants (Climatewire, Nov. 3).
DOE did not respond to a request to speak with Cunningham about next steps or when a DOE study should be expected.
DOE’s request for information (RFI) on the cost and benefits of net metering was published in the Federal Register on Sept. 15.
Comments were due Oct. 30.
Congress ordered the study as part of DOE’s Grid Modernization Initiative under former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, to look at “the cost and benefit considerations of net metering to utilities (utility business perspective), ratepayers (consumer perspective), and the electrical grid (technical/operational perspective).”
The RFI asked for comments on “existing studies (2012-present) assessing the costs and benefits of net metering, and the availability of data that can be used in conducting such studies.”
The department also asked for information on the “motivations and the policy context for conducting NEM cost-benefit studies,” including the role of such studies in driving policy decisions.