Net metering - Solar Strong Washington
In 2006, Washington created the Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Incentive Payment Program to help build a local solar manufacturing sector and to enable residents to put solar power to work on homes, commercial buildings, and community facilities. The program has been enormously successful...
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What’s Does Net Metering Mean in WA?

Since 1998, Washington state law has provided for all our 60+ utility districts to allow small amounts of distributed energy generation, like wind and solar, to tie into the broader electrical grid. The now-revised law (RCW 80.60) allows each utility to net-meter distributed generation projects, measured in kilowatt-hours, up to 0.5% of their 1996 peak hour’s demand.

Until recently, solar represented a very small amount of Washington’s total electricity production. But these days, solar is growing quickly. In recent years, several utilities have hit their “0.5% net metering caps,” at which point the state law allows each utility to choose how to proceed. Some have allowed more solar to interconnect above the 0.5%; others have shut out new installations completely. But no utility has yet tried to rewrite the rules.

Now, Snohomish Public Utility District is considering a proposal to replace net metering for solar power with a “buy all, sell all” system. What’s that mean?

  • Net Metering: Right now, solar owners use the solar power they make to reduce the amount of power they have to buy from the grid. But when they’re making more solar power than the home or business can use in any instant, the excess power is send into the grid, “sold” to the SnoPUD grid at the retail price for power. Later, when the sun isn’t shining, solar owners can reclaim those excess kilowatt-hours from the grid at the same retail price. Over the course of the year, solar owners can lower their utility bill, because solar power and grid power are valued at the same 1:1 retail price.
  • Buy All, Sell All: SnoPUD wants to shut down net metering for future solar owners. Instead, future solar owners would be forced to “buy all” their electricity from SnoPUD at the retail cost. Additionally, they’d be forced to “sell all” their solar power to the SnoPUD grid at the much lower price dictated by the PUD. Not only could solar owners not use their own power, but they’d get weak compensation for the solar kilowatt-hours they contribute to the broader grid.
  • In addition, this rate structure may deny the 30% federal tax credit future solar owners.

What it means for Rooftop Solar

According to SnoPUD’s own calculations (see above graphic from July 2017 Board Packet), forcing solar owners to comply with their plan would delay the payback time for an average residential solar installation from 9 to 17 years. And that doesn’t yet include the possible denial of the federal tax credit.

We don’t yet know the PUD Commissioners’ timeline for voting on this huge decision. We hope there is ample time for SnoPUD customer comment and industry data on this critical issue.

For more information about the latest advocacy efforts regarding Net Metering, please see the letter sent from Solar Installers of Washington to Snohomish County PUD on August 7, 2017. Please feel free to email info@solarstrong.org for more information.