STATE HOUSE – Rep. Brandon Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2023 H-5033) to promote solar energy and tackle rising energy costs by improving the state’s net metering program.
“All of us are feeling the pain of high energy prices, and all of us are worried about climate change,” Representative Potter said. “There’s not much we can do on the state level about the war in Ukraine or price gouging from oil companies, but this is one step we can take to produce more clean energy here in Rhode Island, create jobs and curb costs for consumers.”
Homeowners in Rhode Island who install solar panels on their roofs can participate in the state’s net metering program. This allows them to rack up credits when it’s sunny which they can then use to offset their energy costs. However, the current net metering system is based on the household’s energy use over the past three years, which creates problems if household energy use changes.
“We need to greatly increase the amount of renewable energy produced in Rhode Island. Representative Potter’s bill not only helps us meet our clean energy goals and empowers homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint, but also helps ensure that solar is sited on homes and buildings – which helps to protect our forests and open space from development. We are grateful for his work,” said Sue AnderBois, Climate and Energy Program Manager for The Nature Conservancy.
Under the current system, homeowners are limited in the amount of solar energy they can produce by how much electricity they used over the past three years. This means that families whose energy use increases (because, for example, they have a child or buy an electric vehicle) are stuck with smaller solar arrays and higher energy bills. It also means less locally produced clean energy.
On the other hand, if a household’s energy use decreases (because, for example, a child moves out or they buy more energy efficient appliances) they end up racking up credits that they can’t use. The utility must keep these credits on their ledger as leveraged debt and passes these costs on to all consumers.
Another benefit of the bill, according to advocates, is that it allows customers to install solar when it makes sense for them financially. With the current three-year rolling average, consumers are incentivized to wait until they have already purchased an electric vehicle or electric heating. By altering that requirement, the bill allows homeowners to act sooner, taking advantage of federal tax breaks and accelerating the production of clean energy.
Representative Potter acknowledges that this bill is only a first step, but is hopeful that it will help Rhode Island’s economy, environment, and consumers. “Our energy system is incredibly complex,” Representative Potter said. “With this bill, we’re making it a little more rational and doing what we can to help Rhode Island families.”