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The Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5223, the Solar Fairness Act, that will extend the requirement for electric utilities to offer net metering to their customers.  Net metering allows a solar customer-generator to backfeed excess power during the day and retrieve it at night.  More important in our region is that the excess power can be rolled over from one billing period to the next for a 12 month period, so that solar customers can 'bank' power in the summer and use those kilowatt hour credits in the winter. 
Yesterday a Seattle City Light meter crew replaced our production meters and our net meter with new meters that can be read by remote.  The net meter was our primary electric meter that would spin forward and backward every day, displaying the 'net' amount of electricity provided by the Seattle City Light grid.  The new meter only displays the amount of power that comes into the house, and does not go backward.  Exported power is not displayed, but is recorded by City Light and will show up on our bill.  The new meter prepares the way for the end of net metering and the introduction of 'net billing', where City supplied electricity is billed at the regular rates, but electricity exported by the customer gets a different rate.
This could be interpreted as an ominous sign if the rate for exported power is determined to be lower than the rate for City Light power, but whether or not that would be the case has yet to be determined.  A public process is required if a utility wants to replace net metering with something else after the threshold for net metering has been reached.  That threshold is now 8X higher than it was, thanks to the Solar Fairness Act, but it is only a matter of time before we will be engaged with our utilities to hammer out what comes next.

About the author


Started Puget Sound Solar in 2001 with 30 years of construction contracting experience, and a desire to turn Seattle on to solar energy. Achieving NABCEP certification in 2004, Jeremy believes that our customers often follow a path similar to the one he took, starting out with solar daydreaming, then progressing to education on the subject, and eventually leading to action. In addition to leading the company he also does some teaching and speaking engagements about various aspects of solar energy, and experiments relentlessly with various solar, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle projects.

Jeremy Smithson

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