South Carolina becomes 44th US state to introduce solar net metering

South Carolina has become the 44th US state to offer solar net metering, after a deal was hashed out between the solar industry, local utilities, and the state regulator.

The agreement means that homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar systems can sell any electricity they generate but do not consume back onto the grid, and receive the full retail electricity rate in compensation.

Under the agreement – praised by solar advocates and major utilities like Duke Energy alike – the issue will be revisited in 2020. Anyone who installs a solar system before the end of 2020 will continue to benefit from the current terms until 2026 – offering a full decade of pricing and regulatory clarity to South Carolina homeowners currently considering going solar.

“We believe this is a positive step for South Carolina and the future of solar energy in our state,” says Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy president for South Carolina.

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), a lobbying group for rooftop solar companies, noted that seven US states have expanded their net metering caps during 2014, while none fully retracted their programmes.

TASC’s members include SolarCity, Sunrun and Verengo.

Net metering has emerged as a major battleground for the US rooftop solar industry and utilities looking to slow or throttle that sector’s growth. Some utilities claim that customers with rooftop PV systems are benefiting at the expense of those who do not have solar systems in place, by avoiding paying their share of grid-upkeep charges.

The solar industry denies this is the case.

So far, the industry has been largely successful in stamping out attempts to squelch net metering programmes.

Its biggest setback to date came last month, when Wisconsin’s regulator approved a proposal from We Energies, a subsidiary of Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Energy Corporation, to raise the fixed monthly cost on homeowners with solar by 78% and reduce the compensation they receive for each kWh of power they feed back into the system.