State Net Metering Policies

11/20/2017

Policy Overview

Net metering policies have facilitated the expansion of renewable energy through on-site, also known as distributed, generation. Common distributed generation sources—which are often located at a house, school or business rather than utility-owned property—include:

  • Solar panels 
  • Natural gas micro-turbines 
  • Methane digesters 
  • Small wind power generators 

Net metering policies allow distributed generation customers to sell excess electricity to a utility at a retail rate and receive credit on their utility bill. This credit offsets the customer’s electricity consumption during other times of the day or year, which reduces the amount of electricity the customer purchases from a utility.

Increasing numbers of utility customers are using net metering to generate electricity on their property. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, residential net-metered solar saw significant growth in 2016, adding over 2,580 megawatts (MW) in generation capacity. This represents a 19 percent increase over 2015 capacity additions.

State Net Metering Policies

Net metering policies can assist states in meeting their renewable portfolio standards (RPS) or targets since a number of states have specific requirements for distributed generation. While a majority of states and territories have authorized net metering, they have taken differing approaches to policies with variations in capacity limits, eligible technology, net metering credit retention and renewable energy credit (REC) ownership.

Thirty-eight states, Washington, D.C., and four territories offer net metering, and utilities in two additional states—Idaho and Texas—have voluntarily adopted net metering programs. Seven states—Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Nevada, Maine and Mississippi—have statewide distributed generation compensation rules other than net metering. These states' distributed generation compensation rules do not qualify as net metering because they do not offer full retail rate compensation or because their policies use an alternative compensation structure, such as a "buy-all, sell-all" approach. Additionally, although Minnesota offers conventional net metering, the state has also created a value of solar rate, or tariff, as an alternative to net metering. For more information regarding these policies see the “Emerging Compensation Methods” and “Value of Solar” sections below.

US map showing State Net Metering Policies.

Value of Solar

The Value of Solar (VOS) rate (or Value of Solar tariff) is an alternative to net metering designed to capture the value solar installations provide to the electric system. Under existing VOS program designs, solar customers continue to purchase all of their electricity from the grid at the utility’s retail rate and receive credit for the solar electricity exported to the grid at the approved VOS rate.

The VOS rate attempts to include the variety of costs and benefits that solar may create for the grid rather than simply paying the fixed retail rate. The VOS rate is locked in for a specified period of time—for example, at least 20 years in Minnesota—whereas net metering credits fluctuate with the retail price. By including both costs and benefits, the VOS rate addresses the concerns of cost-shifting to non-solar customers.

Finally, VOS allows utilities to better understand and manage customer electricity generation, since the VOS decouples the solar electricity generated by the consumer from the electricity purchased for on-site consumption. Minnesota allows utilities to compensate rooftop solar and community solar garden systems at either the VOS or net metering rate. Only Minnesota and Austin, Texas, have adopted VOS policies, however no eligible utility has chosen to implement a VOS rate. 

Terminology

States have implemented net metering policies using a range of terminology and definitions. For example, California enacted legislation authorizing “net energy metering,” defined as “measuring the difference between the electricity supplied through the electrical grid and the electricity generated by an eligible customer-generator and fed back to the electrical grid over a 12-month period.” Florida legislation defined "net metering" as "a metering and billing methodology whereby customer-owned renewable generation is allowed to offset the customer's electricity consumption on site."

Capacity Limits

Capacity limits regulate the individual system size of net metered installations in a variety of aspects and vary widely across states. Capacity limits can be determined by a kilowatt-based limit or a percentage limit. For example, Wisconsin has authorized net metering for systems up to 20 kilowatts (kW) while Arizona caps systems at 125 percent of a customer’s total connected load. New Jersey and Ohio have authorized net metering with no capacity limit. South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin have authorized net metering for systems up to 20 kW in capacity while Massachusetts allows for systems up to 10 MW and New Mexico authorizes net metering for systems up to 80 MW. Nearly half of states with net metering policies authorize net metering for systems up to one or two MW in capacity.

Capacity amounts can also vary with regard to utility type, customer type, technology and system type. For example, a majority of states have adopted requirements that are only applicable to certain types of utilities, such as investor-owned utilities. States also have adopted capacity limits based on customer demographics. For example, West Virginia established different limits for commercial, industrial and residential customers, which are then based on the size of the utility serving the various customer demographics. Several states have established capacity limits based on technologies, such as in New York where solar, wind, micro-hydroelectric, fuel cell, biogas and micro-combined heat and power (CHP) systems all have different capacity limits (which then vary based on customer type).

States can also adopt different capacity limits for individual systems, aggregate net metering systems and community or virtual net metering systems, which are discussed under “Shared Renewable Energy” later in this document. Pennsylvania, for example, limits aggregate net metering to 200 percent of a customer's cumulative consumption across all aggregated meters. 

Eligible Technology

States include a variety of technologies in net metering policies. While all states with net metering include solar energy in their policies, they may also include: wind and micro-turbines, combined heat and power or cogeneration, biomass, biogas, landfill gas, municipal solid waste, anaerobic digesters, geothermal electric, fuel cells, small hydroelectric, tidal energy, wave energy, ocean thermal and renewable fuel cells.

Compensation

State policies also have addressed how long customers can maintain or “roll over” bill credits for net metered electricity. Virtually all states credit excess generation to the next monthly billing period or allow distributed generation customers to select this option. North Dakota, an exception to this practice, reconciles excess generation monthly at avoided cost rate.

An important distinction in states’ policies is whether credits for excess generation can expire or can be carried over indefinitely; states have taken a range of approaches to address this. For example, Alaska credits excess generation to a customer’s next bill and credits may be carried over indefinitely. In Hawaii, excess generation is credited to a customer’s next bill at retail rate but excess credits are granted to the utility at the end of an annual billing cycle. California credits excess generation to a customer’s next bill at retail rate. After a 12-month period customers can choose whether to roll credits over indefinitely or receive a payment for credits at the wholesale rate. If no option is selected, credits are granted to the utility with no customer compensation.

States vary compensation policies based on factors such as system size or technology. For example, Minnesota determines net excess generation policies based on the capacity of the distributed generation system, while New York differentiates net excess generation policies based on technology.

REC Ownership

Net metering policies may specify ownership of renewable energy credits (RECs) created by the system. Renewable energy producers earn RECs for electrical generation and states can determine if the distributed generation customer, or the utility that purchases excess electricity, owns the REC. REC ownership can be important to meeting state renewable portfolio standards (RPS), whether the requirements are for distributed generation carve-outs or broader utility requirements. In Colorado, where the state RPS requires a percentage of retail sales to come from distributed generation, RECs are owned by distributed generation customers. Utilities in Kansas, where there is no distributed generation requirement in the state RPS, own distributed generation RECs. A majority of states with net metering have determined that distributed generation customers own RECs.

Net Metering System Types

In recent years, a number of states have differentiated how net metering policies apply to different customer types. 

  • Conventional net metering, sometimes referred to as individual net metering, connects a generating source to single meter, such as a house or building. The recent expansion of net metering policies allows generating sources to be connected to multiple meters or multiple properties. 
  • Aggregate net metering and virtual or community net metering have authorized net metering for new customer types, including non-profits, multi-unit residences, multi-property owners, renters, municipalities and others who cannot install distributed generation. Under conventional net metering, these customer types could not have benefitted from net metering. 

Note: See Map "State Net Metering Policies" for conventional net metering authorization.

US map showing states with aggregate net metering.

 

Aggregate Net Metering

According to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), meter aggregation, also called aggregate net metering, is a program design that allows a single customer to offset electrical use from multiple meters on his or her property, using a single renewable energy generating system also located on the owner’s property. For example, aggregate net metering allows a farmer to use net metering credits generated from a single renewable energy system to offset the load from multiple meters on the farmer’s same property or adjacent farm properties.

At least 17 states have authorized aggregated net metering, including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington and West Virginia.

Certain states have placed specific requirements on aggregated net metering systems based on customer type (such as Maryland and New York), technology type (such as Nevada and New York) or the distance between meters and the renewable energy system (such as New Jersey and West Virginia). States have also required customers to request for meters to be aggregated, required customers to cover the expense of meter aggregation or established separate capacity limits for aggregated systems. State legislative activity is included in the table below.

States with Meter Aggregation Policies

STATE

ENABLING STATUTE, CODE OR ORDER

ESTABLISHED

SUMMARY

Arkansas

Order No. 7 in Docket No. 12-060-R

2013

Customers with multiple meters located within a single utility’s service territory are allowed to offset those meters using a single net metering system or multiple systems. Customers must designate the additional meter or meters to be offset when requesting meter aggregation.

California

Senate Bill 594

2012

A single customer is allowed to aggregate the electric load of their multiple meters on the same or adjacent properties and apply the generation credits from a renewable energy system located on adjacent property to all meters.

Colorado

4 CCR 723-3, Rules 3664

2012

A customer with multiple meters located on the same or adjacent property is allowed to offset the load measured at more than one meter. Customers must request meter aggregation, give the utility a 30-day notice and specify the order in which to apply net metering credits at the multiple meters.

Connecticut

House Bill 6360

2013

Allows municipal, state or agricultural customers to aggregate all electric meters billable to the customer.

Delaware

Senate Bill 267

2010

Individual customers with multiple meters are allowed to aggregate all meters located within the electric company’s service area. The capacity of the offsetting energy generating facility is limited to 120 percent of the customer’s aggregate electrical use of the individual meters. Customers must provide a list of the individual meters to be aggregated and identify a rank to follow for offsetting the meters.

Maine

Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 35-A, §3210-A

2003

Allows small generators to aggregate meters for a total capacity of 5 MW or less.

Maryland

COMAR 20.50.10.07

2011

Meter aggregation is allowed for agricultural, non-profit and municipal or county government customers. Customers must provide details on how to distribute excess generation credits when they request meter aggregation.

Minnesota

Minn. Statute §216B.164

2015

Customers are allowed to aggregate meters located on the same or adjacent properties owned by the same customer. The customer must designate the rank order for meters for applying net metering credits. Utilities may charge administrative fees for meter aggregation. The capacity of all aggregated meters is limited to 1 MW.

Nevada

Assembly Bill 359

2011

Meter aggregation is allowed for hydropower facilities with a generating capacity up to 1 MW. Meters offset by hydropower facilities must be located on adjacent properties. Wind energy devices installed during 2012 on property owned or leased by an institution of higher learning and used for research and workforce training are also eligible for meter aggregation.

New Jersey

Senate Bill 1925

2012

Public entities including state and local governments, local agencies and school districts are eligible for meter aggregation of solar facilities. All meters must be located within the customer’s territorial jurisdiction, and for state projects, all facilities must be located within five miles of one another. The host meter receives credit for excess generation at the retail rate and all other meters are credited at the wholesale rate.

New York

Assembly Bill 6270

2011

Farm-based and non-residential customer generators are eligible for remote net metering of solar, wind, farm-based biogas and micro-hydroelectric

Oregon

Or. Admin. Code R. 860-039

2007

Aggregate net metering is allowed for all net metering facilities located on the same property or adjacent properties. When requesting meter aggregation, customers must designate the rank order of meters for applying net metering credits.

Pennsylvania

PA Code Chapter 75

2008

 

Meter aggregation is allowed for all meters located within two miles of the boundaries of the individual’s property and within the same electric distribution company’s service territory. Customers are responsible for the cost of meter aggregation.

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws §39-26.4

2011

Aggregate net metering is allowed for meters located on an individual customer’s property. Meter aggregation is allowed for public entities and special provisions exist for farm-based systems. 

Utah

Rule R746-312

2010

Meter aggregation is allowed for meters located on a customer’s adjacent properties. Customers must identify the meters to be aggregated and a ranking order for applying net metering credits to meters at the time of request for aggregation.

Washington

Rev. Code Wash. §80.60.030; House Bill 1140

2007

All meters on property owned by a customer within a single utility’s service territory are eligible for meter aggregation. Customers are limited to 100 kW in capacity. Generated electricity is first used to offset the electricity provided by the utility to the customer and any excess kilowatt-hours are credited equally to the customer’s remaining meters.

West Virginia

General Order No. 258

2010

All of a customer’s meters located within two miles of the point of generation are eligible for meter aggregation. Customers are responsible for the cost of meter aggregation.

 

Shared Renewable Energy

Outdoor photo showing clouds and solar panels.Shared renewable energy programs offer customers who might be unable or unwilling to install on-site distributed generation systems the opportunity to benefit from distributed renewable energy generation. Shared renewables programs can provide access to renewable energy to customers in multi-family residences, condominiums or those with roofs incompatible with solar arrays.

States can take one of two legislative paths to authorize shared renewables—virtual net metering or community renewables programs—or they can take a hybrid approach. At least 18 states and Washington, D.C., have legislation authorizing shared renewables.

Virtual net metering expands conventional net metering to allow multiple customers, including tenants in a multi-family property or condominium owners, to offset their energy use from one or several shared distributed generation systems.

The second legislative route to shared renewable energy is through legislation authorizing community-based renewables programs or pilot projects. Also known as shared or community solar, community solar gardens or shared clean energy, these programs allow multiple customers to purchase interest in shared renewable energy systems located on-site or off-site. Participating customers are allocated benefits from the shared system through either virtual net metering or bill credits.

While the majority of shared renewables projects are solar projects, there is also a small number of wind projects operating in several states. Additionally, at least 10 of the states with shared renewables legislation include provisions to allow for additional renewable energy technologies, such as wind, biomass or geothermal, in programs. For more information, please visit our shared renewable energy page

Emerging Compensation Methods

In recent years, state legislatures have taken an active role in navigating net metering. While net metering policies have been responsible for expanding access to the benefits of renewable energy, they have generated questions of equity with regard to distributed solar systems. Originally designed to spur a nascent technology, net metering's success has led to debates on the policy's sustainability in virtually every state legislature or utility commission. 

Man installing solar PV panels on a roof.

Critics argue that the economic compensation received by net metering customers unintentionally allows them to avoid compensating utilities for the cost of maintaining infrastructure and the electric grid. All electricity users pay for the grid that supports electric infrastructure through charges on their utility bill, however, since net metered customers may end up paying very low electricity bills, they inadvertently avoid these charges. Additionally, some feel distributed generation users should not be credited at the retail rate for excess electricity generation, but rather at the avoided cost or wholesale rate.

Net metering supporters contend that net metered resources provide utilities with economic benefits by supplying energy at peak times when producing and acquiring energy is most costly, reducing the need for transmission upgrades or new generation, and contribute to reliability and clean air goals.

Numerous state legislatures and public utility commissions are discussing the best way to balance customer demand for distributed generation with the impacts new technologies have on the electric power grid, including exploring ways to assess the actual costs and benefits to the utility, the grid and all customers. The increase in net metered resources, notably distributed solar, has launched a more comprehensive discussion about properly evaluating the effects and benefits of new technologies, such as energy storage, smart meters, distributed energy and energy management tools. 

At least five states have implemented alternative compensation methods in place of net metering, including Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine and Nevada. While these states have implemented widely-verying alternative compensation methods, all five states have grandfathered existing customers, allowing them to continue under the previous net metering rules for a set number of years. 

Additional Resources