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PSEG Long Island seeks revamp of solar metering

A file photo shows a PSEG meter.

A file photo shows a PSEG meter. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

PSEG Long Island is recommending significant changes to the way solar energy customers benefit from the power they generate, including potentially eliminating subsidies provided under current net metering plans.

In a filing with the Public Service Commission, which has requested input on future metering plans for solar and other green-energy customers, PSEG said the state should adopt policies “to minimize and then later eliminate the subsidies net metered customer generators are receiving.”

PSEG is recommending that the state increase the fixed monthly service fee by an unspecified amount to recoup more costs; change the price the utility pays for excess solar energy sent back to the grid based on its actual benefit to the system; require separate meters to monitor customers’ energy production and energy use; and charge those customers on a time-of-use basis for the energy they draw from the grid.

The PSEG recommendations drew sharp criticism from the Long Island solar industry, which last week also saw the end of popular solar rebate program here.

Market watchers also said the policies would likely slow the adoption of solar on Long Island at a time PSEG is about to announce the 30,000th solar residential rooftop on Long Island.

“It just doesn’t make any sense in terms of state goals for renewables,” Gordian Raacke, executive director of green-energy group Renewable Energy Long Island, said of PSEG’s suggestions. “These recommendations make solar more expensive and more difficult for people to go solar.”

“I’m flabbergasted,” said Mike Bailis, vice president of SUNation Solar Systems, Long Island’s largest seller of residential rooftop solar systems.

“It’s going to change the way we design systems,” he said. “It’s really going to hurt. And I think you would see a significant loss of business with a net metering law that is significantly different than what we have now.”

Under the current system, customers with solar systems generate energy to power their home appliances, and send excess power to the grid. That excess is banked in special net meters.

When the sun isn’t shining, customers then draw energy from the Long Island Power Authority grid against their banked excess energy. Typically, customers have no energy bills, and some receive credit for their excess production. Many pay only the monthly service charge of about $13 a month.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said changes were needed because the current net metering scheme allows solar customers “to avoid paying their share of distribution system costs, which are in turn borne by other customers. It is an issue of fairness.”

“We believe it’s important for our customers to be treated fairly, and having the PSC review the policy around net metering is a step in that direction,” Weir said.

The PSC, which does not have jurisdiction over the LIPA service territory, will review a long list of recommendations before making any final determination.

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