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MPSC approves utilities' request for lower reimbursements for solar roof customers

Workers install solar panels on a roof
Alex Snyder
Wayne National Forest/Wikimedia Commons

Starting some time next year, electric utilities will be able to submit lower reimbursements to the Michigan Public Service Commission to compensate their solar customers.

Right now, when a customer with a solar roof creates more electricity than needed, it becomes available to the grid.

Utilities pay the customer the same rate that they themselves charge.

It's called "net metering," but it's soon going away.  The MPSC sided with utilities and agreed to adopt a rate structure called distributed generation.  That will likely mean customers will get less back from their utility for providing their excess electricity to the grid than before.

Utilities say it's necessary, so that solar customers pay their fair share of maintaining the grid infrastructure.  Otherwise, they argue, non-solar customers are essentially subsidizing the solar customers.

Becky Stanfield of Vote Solar says there was no good reason to drop net metering, and in fact, states that studied the issue found that solar customers were putting something on the grid that was even more valuable than what they were paying their utility for.  That's in part because solar can create energy at times when it's most needed by the grid - hot, sunny days when electricity demand is high.

Stanfield says the new rates remain to be set, and her group and others will try to get the Commission to set rates that are fair.

In the meantime, she says people who want a solar roof should install one soon, to lock in the old rates.

People who already have solar roofs will remain on the net metering rate for ten years, and then they will be moved to the distributed generation rate.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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