"What the utilities are asking for is a change so your excess solar output would be valued at a wholesale rate which would be the price the utility pays to buy electricity from third parties such as hydro power from Quebec or coal fired plants in Ohio."

seacoast energy

News on Net Metering

You may or may not be aware that there is currently a rate case being argued before the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission regarding the value of net metering. Currently any excess power your solar system creates goes out to the power grid through your meter and generates credits. Those credits are currently valued at the price the utility charges retail customers meaning you pay around $.18 per kWh for power you use and any excess is valued at $.18 so you get full credit against your billing.

What the utilities are asking for is a change so your excess solar output would be valued at a wholesale rate which would be the price the utility pays to buy electricity from third parties such as hydro power from Quebec or coal fired plants in Ohio. At present it appears that existing customers would not be affected by these proceedings. But what it would mean for new solar customers is any of the excess power would be valued at about $.08 per kWh which makes the economics of buying solar equipment less attractive.

Their argument in favor of wholesale pricing is that non-solar customers are suffering because solar customers have lower bills and therefore are not covering the cost of delivery services, like wires and transformers. The counter arguments are many. There are 30 studies currently in circulation conducted by various entities indicating that the value of solar (by which it is meant the actual cost displacement of traditional utility generation sources) could easily exceed retail prices. As a matter of fact, the State of Maine commissioned a study that shows solar value being almost twice current retail rates or $.32 per kWh. There are several factors that lead to this conclusion, but the primary issue is solar tends to generate most power during peak demand periods when the utilities have to buy power from third party producers and pay the highest wholesale prices. There are certainly other factors afoot. For example, your solar system delivers its surplus power to neighbors at no additional cost to the utility. Likewise, there is little line loss because the power is delivered such a short distance. It is estimated that a utility loses as much a one third of the power generated because it is dissipated as it travels to the end user. So the question becomes is solar costing the utility money or actually saving it money.

A better question is, if the utilities succeed in cutting the value of net metering will that slow the growth of solar in New Hampshire or will it drastically improve the battery market and bring about more rapid defection from the grid. We’ve always thought that solar was a way to democratize electricity production, and in the long game the battery may well be what brings all the options to the fore.

So why are we letting you know about this?

First it is important that you let your legislators know that you have concerns about this process. The utilities have always done well in their requests through the PUC in the past. We have joined with all the other solar companies in the state to argue against this request but it’s hard to tell what the outcome will be.

Secondly, this is an opportunity for new and old customers. If the utilities are going to devalue excess net-metered energy then the solution to the problem are batteries. By storing all the power you create and using it when the sun is not shining you get the maximum benefit from your solar power that would normally pass through the meter to generate credits would remain in your battery instead, for later use by you

Battery backup has always been possible but involved a lot of parts and pieces and substantial assembly time. There is now a new generation of battery that provides a self contained, pre-engineered package that can be installed in just a few hours. In addition it provides new capabilities like determining when you should use utility provided “grid” power and when you should use battery power, while getting the maximum use from your solar and the maximum cost saving. These systems will also allow your solar system to run when the power is out, thereby keeping your battery charged while in use, at least while the sun it shining!

Again, we do not expect existing net metering customer will be affected by this rate case but we can’t be sure. It is also possible that we will see smart meters finally being implemented in the market in which case we will start seeing time of use rates. Then the battery appliance can be modified to recharge from solar when it is available and from the utility when the rates are the lowest in order to supply power to your home when rates are high.

Certainly these conditions don’t exist yet but we expect to see them to in the near future. Because of that we have been looking around for a suitable product, and as usual Germany is a ahead in this market. Sonnen has introduced a product in the US(10,000 units already installed in Europe) that works well in this market. . 

The Sonnen battery system comes in sizes from 4kw up to 16kw and can be stacked for even more power. You can assume that a 4kW battery will supply 8-12 hours of back up for an average home if the loads are carefully managed. As I tell all my customers, batteries are more expensive than generators, but with the advent of new features the difference in price is becoming far less an issue. Download the Sonnen Brochure 

Please contact us if you are interested in learning more. 

Tesla Battery

Tesla also has a product on the market but they have been in very short supply. SolarEdge inverters which we currently install are pre-configured to handle the Tesla battery. We hope in the near future we will be able to offer this product as well.