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What Ohio’s latest net metering ruling means for utility customers

PHOTO BY gerry_btr / Creative Commons


Utility regulators ruled last month that customers who shop around for power suppliers are still eligible for net metering.

Ohio utility customers can participate in net metering regardless of whether they shop around for a power provider, but they will only be credited for generation on part of their electric bill under the latest ruling by state utility regulators.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s December 19 ruling came nearly a year after the commission heard oral argument from utilities, competitive suppliers, environmental groups and consumer advocates last January. The whole rulemaking process stretches back to 2012.

“Overall, the PUCO decision represents a mixed outcome for Ohioans,” said Trish Demeter, vice president of energy policy at the Ohio Environmental Council. From her viewpoint, positives for consumers include a return to having net metering available for shopping customers, along with other holdings on the sizing of systems and placement of on-site generation.

However, not paying for the capacity portion of electricity charges “allows utilities to unfairly benefit off of the investments of small business owners and homeowners by not properly compensating them for their system’s full value,” she added.

Advancing competition

Ohio’s net metering law calls for electric utilities to pay customers who provide excess electricity made at their homes or businesses to the distribution grid. State law also provides that customers have the right to choose among competitive suppliers of electricity — either on their own or through community aggregationplans.

Since at least 2015, utilities in Ohio had been pressing to limit net metering to customers who did not choose a competitive supplier. The PUCO went along with that position in November 2017, over objections from consumer and environmental advocates. The latest ruling reverses that stance and holds that all customers who supply excess electricity can get net metering compensation from utilities.

The PUCO’s holding said that competitive suppliers should eventually provide net metering as part of their services. However, as competitive supplier IGS Energy had noted, most parts of Ohio don’t yet have advanced meter systems to let those suppliers calculate the proper compensation for their customers.

Thus, customers with on-site solar, wind or other generation would face a dilemma: Either forego net metering or give up the right to shop for a supplier.

For now, the PUCO has rejected the utilities’ proposed limitation, noting that it may revisit the issue through its PowerForward grid modernization initiative or in individual waiver requests for areas with full deployment of advanced meters.

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