The Block Island Times

EUTG looks at revised net metering policy

Now includes solar-generated energy
By Lars Trodson | Feb 06, 2014

The Block Island Power Company (BIPCo) has issued a revised net-metering policy that expands which island-based entities will be able to benefit from the program. The revised policy now includes wind-generated power, as well as solar.

Net metering is a service provided to the consumer under which the electricity generated by that electric consumer — by using solar panels, as an example —  can be used to offset the energy provided by the local utility during, in the case of BIPCo, every one-month billing cycle.

The revised policy was discussed by the members of the Electric Utilities Task Group (EUTG) at their most recent meeting on Monday, Jan. 27. EUTG Chair Barbara MacMullan said, and the other two members present agreed, that while they were pleased with the revised policy, they felt it could open the door to further discussions to revise it even more.

“BIPCo has changed the policy enough that it is fair game to open it up with the PUC (Public Utilities Commission),” said MacMullan. The revised policy was originally sent to the PUC by BIPCo.

According to the revisions, the amount of energy that can be offset has been raised to a peak of 3 percent (it was previously limited to 2 percent). The policy also defines what sources or renewable energy are covered:

- Privately owned and located on parcels for that customer’s residential use, and

- Conforming to Block Island Ordinances, including all Planning and Zoning requirements, and Block Island’s Comprehensive Plan, and

- Certified by the Town Building Inspector that the installation is proper, and

- Total wattage of all units does not exceed 3 percent of BIPCo’s yearly peak.

According to the policy, the post office building is an “eligible grandfathered installation” and that “no installations that service commercial customers are allowed to be net metered. All installations must have “smart meters” that allow the amount of energy delivered and received to be measured. The three existing wind turbines on the island will be considered to have smart meters.

There will be no carryover from month-to-month. In others words, each account will be zeroed out at the end of each billing period.

EUTG member Everett Shorey recommended “amending the policy to include municipal and non-profit entities in the revised policy.”

In the end, the group voted to write a letter to the PUC asking it not to docket the submitted revisions for approval just yet.

“We don’t want to pick a fight, but we’d like to modify it,” said Shorey.

In other news, the members of the EUTG discussed how best to initiate an island-wide energy conservation program. Member Everett Shorey said he had investigated the programs of several small utilities in the Pacific Northwest, but the best program he encountered was a plan that had been written for Block Island in 2007. “That was one of the better efforts I’ve found,” said Shorey. The report, titled “Electric Resource Planning Study,” can be found at on the Electric Utilities Task Group page.

The issue for the members, once an energy conservation program is decided on, is how best to get the word out. “What does it take to organize the community?” said Shorey. “Just posting a program is not a good idea.”

Member Bill Penn also said any program should be a “community-wide push rather an individual effort.” The EUTG voted to have Shorey amend the language of the existing Block Island plan and present it at the next meeting in February.

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