Maine utility commissioners
grappling with net metering
After a contentious legislative debate,
the PUC confronts who should pay
and who should benefit
from rooftop solar.
A leading financial incentive that’s driving solar power’s growth at home is a 1980s-vintage rule called net energy billing. It requires utilities to pay small energy generators the full retail price for all the electricity they send into the grid. Those payments help recover the investment in solar-electric panels, which can run $10,000 or so at an average home.
But net energy billing, often called net metering, is controversial nationwide. As solar’s popularity grows, utilities say those payments are shifting the cost of serving homes with solar panels onto other customers. Clean-energy advocates counter that the value of this energy actually is greater than the cost. Both sides cite figures and studies to support their claims.