My Turn: More net metering would be a good thing
In his June 22 Monitor op-ed (“Too much net metering not a good thing”), Rep. Michael Vose mixed some facts with some fiction.
He noted correctly that over the past decade the wholesale price of electric energy in New England has declined markedly (from 6 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to under 3 cents per kilowatt-hour today), while the region’s “full retail rates” are still among the highest in the country (19 cents per kilowatt-hour for a typical Eversource residential customer).
He also correctly noted the reason for the drop in wholesale rates: free market competition. Congress, state legislators, and state regulators have broken up regulated utilities’ century-old monopoly on electric power production. Generation of electric energy has been opened up to lower-cost competitors, resulting in lower energy prices for consumers.
That left large investor-owned utilities like Eversource with only two remaining profit centers: transmission lines and distribution networks, or “T&D.” These delivery systems are natural monopolies. Their rates are set by federal agencies with jurisdiction over interstate transmission lines and state regulators like the NHPUC, which sets rates for the “poles and wires” outside your home. T&D costs have continued to rise even as wholesale energy costs have declined.
From the point of view of large utilities like Eversource, the problem with “too much net metering” is that it threatens revenues from their only remaining profit centers – especially transmission. Net metering “Distributed Energy Resources” (DERs) send locally produced renewable energy just up the street – from a roof, field, covered landfill, or river – to the net-metering “customer-generator’s” near neighbors. Delivery uses only a few hundred yards of utility distribution wires, for which the utility is paid: both the selling customer-generator and its neighbor continue to pay distribution charges as part of the 19 cents per kilowatt-hour full retail rate.