Has Austin Energy figured out a valid net metering solution?


By: SGN Staff


Quick Take: As you know, SGN has been running a lot of articles about the net metering problem. And for good reason - some observers say it is the biggest threat in a long while to the financial viability of utilities.


Sadly, we've run very few articles about net metering solutions. Sure, we recently ran a piece by a prominent environmentalist, who argued that we must treat utilities fairly. But that's not the same as prescriptive, specific ideas you can take to your regulators.


That's why I wanted you to see this piece from the Council of State Government's Knowledge Center. It contains a long and well-balanced description of the problem. More importantly, it includes possible solutions now under discussion in several states. And most importantly of all (in my view), it describes Austin Energy's "hybrid" approach. I'll let you read the details in the article linked below, or in the PDF you can download by clicking this link. But what I like is that Austin Energy uses a scientific algorithm to calculate the true value of solar to the utility.


No vague guessing or generalizations. Rather, a careful calculation that is updated every year. That's something that is easy to justify to regulators and ratepayers alike. I hope you will consider a similar approach for your utility. - By Jesse Berst


A unique confluence of challenging and revolutionary factors is occurring in the normally steady and predictable utility industry. Electricity demand plateaued in 2007 after years of stable growth and it may stay flat for several years to come. Increased energy efficiency from both the private sector and state/federal directives, more stringent environmental compliance regulations, planned retirements of coal-fired power plants and the substantial increase in the availability of relatively affordable domestic natural gas have uniquely coalesced at roughly the same time.


Undergirding all these changes in market and regulatory forces is the emergence and utilization of 21st century computing capability via the application of smart grid technology, while the rate recovery mechanisms used in some states to pay for projects and new consumer options is based on a mid-20th century model. These new technological applications and devices offer great promise for utilities, grid managers and consumers by giving them the capability to manage energy use, reduce harmful air emissions and prevent power outages.

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