A bill to repeal mandatory net-metering for residential and small business rooftop-solar power generation and reform the program for those grandfathered in squeaked by the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee Thursday.
Senate File 92 – Small customer electrical generation, sponsored by Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander), advanced on a 3-2 vote after more than two hours of debate and public comment.
The measure would repeal a current state statute that requires regulated utilities to credit or pay residential and small business customers for surplus electricity — generated from their personal rooftop solar panels — that’s redirected onto the grid for use elsewhere in the system. The repeal would go into effect July 1, 2024. Net-metering arrangements would be honored until July 1, 2039 for customers with solar panels installed by the repeal date.
The bill would also give authority to the Public Service Commission to determine net-metering compensation rates and allow utilities to potentially tack on extra charges for rooftop solar customers remaining in the system.
Similar attempts to reform or limit net-metering have failed, most recently in 2021. The impetus for renewing the effort is a concern that net-metering is subsidized by customers without rooftop solar power, according to Case.
Essentially, customers with rooftop solar arrays end up paying less than those without because they require less electricity from the system. That means customers with solar systems are not paying their fair share to cover a utility’s system-wide infrastructure costs, such as power plants and power lines, according to Case.
Without reforms, the uneven cost-share between those with and those without rooftop solar will only intensify as more people add small-scale, personal solar systems, Case said.
Senate File 92 “is about trying to make the whole system sustainable, in a green sense and a financial sense,” he said.
Critics say there’s no merit to his argument, and that an analysis of net-metering in Wyoming shows a shared cost-savings benefit to all customers, according to a 2022 study.
“We’re being told that those who don’t consume enough energy [from] the grid are somehow wrong and costing others,” Fremont County resident Steff Kessler told the committee. “I believe in freedom of choice to be more energy independent and freedom to save money on electricity bills and to be thrifty without getting punished for it.”
Net-metering in Wyoming
Interest is growing among Wyoming homeowners and businesses to offset their electric bills while reducing their carbon footprint by installing solar panels, according to Scott Kane, co-owner of Lander-based Creative Energies, which installs solar energy systems.
About 1,400 households in Wyoming have installed solar panels since 2017, according to Kane’s analysis of U.S. Energy Information Administration data. Installed residential solar capacity stood at 10.5 megawatts in 2021, which represents about 0.5% of all residential electric consumption in the state.
Currently, regulated utilities in the state are required to credit or pay customers with rooftop solar for the volume of electricity they direct back into the system for other customers to use. They are paid “retail value” for the energy — or the same rate that the utility charges other residential customers for that energy.
There’s only so much electricity that a single household can sell back into the system, according to Kane. It’s rare that a rooftop solar household will produce 100% of its electrical power needs for an entire year. For example, a solar-powered home may generate 100% of the power it needs, and a bit extra to sell back into the system, during sunny summer months. But other months, especially during short winter days, they typically require more power than the home solar system can generate.
If a home does push more electricity back into the system than it consumes in a year, the customer earns a smaller, “avoided cost” net-metering rate for that extra volume.
“That’s a good safeguard already in place to prevent people from over-producing, from trying to make money off the utility by being a little power plant,” Kane said.
Solar-powered homes are simply pulling less electricity from the grid on a yearly basis, making more energy available throughout the system.
“It’s a good, simple system,” Kane said.
Case, however, says it’s unfair that rooftop solar customers earn the retail rate for electricity they push into the system. Two Wyoming electric utility representatives agreed there is a slight disadvantage for non-rooftop solar customers when it comes to shared-system costs. However, neither they nor Case could quantify it.
Rooftop solar study
Anticipating another attempt at limiting net-metering in Wyoming, the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Wyoming Outdoor Council and the Wyoming Chapter of the Sierra Club commissioned a study in 2022. The study, conducted by Crossborder Energy, examined the systemwide and ratepayer impacts of net-metering among three Wyoming utilities and determined it “does not cause a cost shift to non-participating ratepayers.”
In fact, small rooftop solar in Wyoming is a net-benefit to all ratepayers, according to the study.
For example, the addition of residential power generation reduces the scale of expensive new industrial power generation — coal and natural gas power generation stations, as well as intermittent wind and solar farms — necessary to replace aging infrastructure. It also helps reduce a utility’s fuel and power purchases during peak-demand periods (extreme heat or cold) when those commodity prices spike.
The study also indicated that potential growth in rooftop solar creates sustainable local jobs and promises “quantifiable societal benefits” by reducing planet-warming carbon emissions and reducing air pollution.
Although slight and difficult to measure in Wyoming, rooftop solar is beneficial to all customers, the bill’s opponents say. Senate File 92, if passed in its current form, would leave it up to utilities to decide if they want to offer a net-metering program beyond July 1, 2024. If they don’t, their customers wouldn’t be able to afford to invest in residential solar arrays, according to Claire Deuter, renewable energy organizer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council.
“This bill removes a major incentive for rooftop solar and leaves our solar industry high and dry,” Deuter told the committee. “I understand that the purpose of this bill is to prevent subsidization, but we oppose this bill because we don’t see subsidization currently occurring in Wyoming.”
Just get some ranchers to bye into solar panels and watch how fast the legislature will flip. As I say in Wyoming get a rancher behind it and it will get done lickity split.
It’s very obvious that we don’t send our best and brightest to Cheyenne on an annual basis. Apparently this senate committee has been wined and dined by lobbyists and “bought” to put out such a stupid bill. 1/2 PERCENT – Our legislators are even considering this subject?
A lot of the focus on this bill has been on residential solar, but it’s important to remember that local governments and nonprofit service providers have systems that don’t actually generate a lot of excess power, if any, because of the 25kw cap in our net-metering statute. These systems provide a lot of community benefits and we should as a state have a policy in place to support freeing up local revenue or nonprofit funding for other uses. Think of Meals on Wheels in Casper, Laramie systems installed over the past couple of years, the Rock Springs Airport, and even the WYDOT welcome centers in Cheyenne & Sundance. Let’s not feed the pockets of our monopoly utilities – let’s keep the benefits in our communities. And back to those residences, systems come in all sizes and with battery backup make the grid more resilient. If the law ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
no MORE than one HALF of one PERCENT…this is the amount of electricity produced by these grid tied solar systems in Wyoming. Again…. 0.5% Yet, these legislators want to throw a monkey wrench into someone’s grid tied project? These panels/mounts/inverters/labor, etc. were no installed for free (paid for by the home owner). There is only ONE job this legislative session for these Senators and Reps: PROPERTY TAX REFORM!!! Quit trying to screw residents of this State and FIX the problem NOW
In regards to: “This bill removes a major incentive for rooftop solar and leaves our solar industry high and dry,” Deuter told the committee. “I understand that the purpose of this bill is to prevent subsidization, but we oppose this bill because we don’t see subsidization currently occurring in Wyoming”
Wyoming loves subsidization. The entire tourism industry is subsidized. Cattle ranchers, irrigators, the wealthy — you name it. And Claire Deuter admits that the bill “removes a major incentive for rooftop solar” which is, therefore, a subsidy to owners and the industry!
As for leaving the industry high and dry, it should stand on its own. And it can. Enough subsidies.
My electric bill has a $13.00 charge and has had for the last three years, probably longer. That was explained as being the charge to maintain the poles, wire, transformer supplying power to my house. So what is this “add on”?? The “surplus” power generated on site is fed back into the grid, then “used” when this system doesn’t keep up with my demand… IN the case of the “balancing” of the books at the beginning of the year, the “extra” power that had been “banked” is paid for at WHOLESALE rates. Once one actually understands the billing.. there are no inequities. The folks that are “making out” are the county and state.. in that they collect sales tax, and that is a stretch. So, where is the problem? Profit for the electric provider? That would be a case for better management, wouldn’t it?
This is about subsidizing the power companies. I would suspect this bill came from a major power producer.
The right wing legislators wish to also reduce the tax on coal by 1/2 a percent thinking they will save a dying coal industry in this state. Just an easy way to give more money back to the stockholders of the coal companies. As the legislature done anything for the people of Wyoming during the session, don’t think so.
Thank you to Mr. Bleizeffer for one of the clearest articles I’ve seen about Sen. Case’s proposed bill SF0092. However, it’s a complex topic and I’ve read the bill several times trying to understand it. As someone who recently installed my own roof-top solar, here’s my take (this is long – sorry!):
1. Nowhere in the bill can I find anything about repealing net metering. This seems to be inaccurate media reporting. (or I could be misreading the bill. My apologies if so).
2. The bill does change how utilities compensate roof-top solar producers (RTSPs for short) for excess power they generate. Honestly, even if the rate were set to zero it wouldn’t be a big deal. Most consumer solar systems are designed to break even (i.e., generate about as much power as we use over the course of a year) and we’re not in this to make money by generating excess power. The current compensation rate is already so low that this would have minimal impact on most people.
3. The bill allows the utility to add an extra charge to RTSP monthly base if the PSC decides the utility is subsidizing roof-top solar. Currently, the base rate is $20 per month for all customers, which pays for the cost of running the grid. Keep in mind that roof-top solar owners use a lot less power than regular customers (and consequently cause less wear and tear to the grid) but we still pay the full $20 base rate. I think this means that roof-top solar owners are essentially subsidizing the utility and their regular customers, not the other way around.
4. The net-metering statute (37-16-103) that’s currently in effect says that utilities must compensate RTSPs for their excess power by an amount equal to the utility’s filed “avoided cost.” Mr. Case’s bill wants to repeal this requirement because he thinks it’s unfair to the utility. Really? Every kilowatt-hour (kWh) generated into the grid is a kWh the utility doesn’t have to generate; thus, my solar system lets them avoid the cost of generating this one kWH. This is called the utility’s “avoided cost.” For 2023 the utility’s published avoided cost is 1.45 cents per kWh. By their own analysis if they pay me 1.45 cents per kWh they are breaking even. In what way is this subsidizing roof-top solar?
5. By the way, after the utility pays me 1.45 cents per kWh, they turn around and sell it to my neighbor at the current retail rate (now about 5 cents). Does it sound like they’re losing money on the deal? Who’s subsidizing who?
6. Final point: It is well known that having many small power generators (e.g., RTSPs) located close to consumers is much more efficient (and less costly) than having a few large generators (e.g., coal-fired power plants or hydroelectric dams) located far from the customers. This is because electricity produced by large power plants has to be transported many miles over expensive and inefficient transmission lines for delivery to distant customers. In contrast, roof-top solar production is distributed around the community and its power is consumed directly by their neighbors across the street; as a result roof-top solar power doesn’t incur the costs of long distance transmission. Furthermore, the local grid is more robust by having less reliance on long-distance delivered power. Roof-top solar benefits all electricity customers and reduces costs of the utility.
7. I’m an engineer, not an economist like Mr. Case. My apologies if I got the money part wrong.
Nothing like an engineer’s analysis. Thanks Bob.
It sure would be nice if our legislators would educate themselves before trying to pass stupid bills.
Nobody wants this bill. Not the people in general, not the utility companies, not the coal companies, not the coal power plants. Somebody must be paying Mr.
Case. I mean Lobbying him.
Also, this affects so few people in Wyoming. The studies do not back that
Other customers pay for our electricity.
Also, many of us that have solar do it in the long run for the environment. Yes it does cost time, energy, money to build solar panels. It causes some pollution, but most studies show that after about 3 to 4 years, we are producing green energy.
We need coal, we need natural gas and other forms of energy. But we also need solar, solar, and wind and other renewable sources. We cannot live on dirty energy forever.
Another example of Republicans claiming less government yet they what to dictate to the people what they can & can’t on their private property. They also want to rape or sell off our public lands. Its double standard and lies, lies, lies. Wake up WY & smell the BS.
My take on this is that Wyoming electric power providers want to maintain monopoly control over your source of electricity. We are not offered, as customers, a choice in our power provider, or a say in the rates they charge. The objective of power companies is to have the exclusive right to construct industrial scale wind farms and solar farms. It’s not all about coal—-the power companies are steadily moving into renewable energy at the pace incentivized by changes in economic forces—-it’s about maintaining the monopoly. Citizen power generation is seen as an existential threat to industry. We all pay “base rates” to our power provider, and individual kwh use is added onto that. Base rates exist to cover the costs we share to maintain the grid and have service to our homes. Some power providers already add a monthly surcharge to net metered customer’s bills.
By the way, this is not just a Wyoming problem. If you want to see what’s going on in California, read this:
Meanwhile, Colorado is pursuing the opposite tactic, encouraging community owned solar projects as well as rooftop, with a variety of incentives.
Yo there I set up my first solar water system 1986, worked well’ any time you can produce what you need with out’ it is a win
Berkshire Energy which owns Rocky Mountain Power also owns Topaz Solar Farm, one of the five largest solar farms in the world. Both qualify as the wide moat cash machines Warren Buffet likes to own. Berkshire wants control, not competition.
Senator Case is wrong. Completely wrong on net metering and alternative energy.
But it ain’t just him. What a shame our Wyoming legislature and leadership-at-large hate any form of electrical generation not derived from a fossil fueled boiler , a dam, or a nuclear reactor. That is Fossil Thinking.
Another symptom of the end of fact-based decision making.
Apparently Cale Case opposes independence for Wyoming residents. Why do his constituents elect a man who opposes a basic principle of Wyoming politics? People in Lander should know better.
This measure is solely designed to discourage future solar power installations thereby ensuring that customers only rely on coal fired generated power.
If legislators continue to attack everything that threatens the extractive industries in the state of Wyoming then it is just a matter of time before it occurs to them that growing corn and turning it into ethanol is cutting into the oil and refining industries market shares too. It will be a wonderful day when they make growing corn for ethanol production illegal in Wyoming. They will also have to pass legislation to prevent those meddling Feds from forcing refineries to add ethanol to their products. Oh Happy Day !!
According to my electric bill no matter how much electricity I consume each month I still pay the same amount for the infrastructure of the companies lines, substations, future plants, etc. It does not matter whether my bill is $40 or $300. How does having a personnel solar system cost another rate payer additional money. Without the small input of additional electricity from these systems the electric company would need to purchase additional power from their commercial source. Legislators do not complain about electric companies buying additional power from commercial sources. How is this different.
Claiming that solar panels reduce “the carbon footprint” of a consumer or “eliminate greenhouse gas emissions” is a false claim based, in most instances, upon ignorance of the solar panel manufacturing process and, in some cases, an outright lie. Solar panels require vast amounts of silica (usually from quartz rock) to be mined, milled, transported, and refined by “cooking” at temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit for six-to-eight hours; charcoal must be added to the mix (which produces carbon monoxide). Acid baths are used to “wash” the final product, metallic silica. Aluminum ore must also be mined, milled, and refined in a similar process as well as lesser quantities of rare earth elements such as boron and phosphorous. So the entire industrial process to produce solar panels, which is substantially more complex than stated above, is generally out of the consumer’s sight. The bottom line? It takes energy to make energy or, “there’s no free lunch.” And solar panels never produce energy longer than the companies that warrant them; try to find a solar panel company that’s been in business longer than twenty-five years. Then, there’s the cost of dismounting and recycling, which most home-owners never see. There are even more complexities associated with solar power electrical generation and claiming that it’s cleaner or cheaper than other means of electric power generation is utterly false!
With about 30 seconds worth of research you could’ve saved the embarrassment and wasted effort of your comment.
Simple fact is that solar PV is one of the lowest carbon sources of electricity available. Far lower than any fossil fuel.
(cut and paste the link below into browser – then educate yourself)
Unfortunately, it takes much more than thirty seconds for one to educate themselves in the fields of energy production and planetary warming. Wikipedia isn’t your best source. I’ve only spent roughly forty years at it, and there’s much more to learn. But here are a few facts I’ve gathered while working in Building 810 on the Denver Federal Center which houses the National Core Lab’ ( https://icecores.org/ ) At the end of the last period of glaciation (around 14,000 years ago), the carbon content of our atmosphere was around 280 parts per million, or 28/1000 of one per cent. Now, the carbon content of our atmosphere is around 400 parts per million, or 40/1000 of one percent. That’s a difference of 12/1000 of one per cent. That’s what our politicians, and the “scientists” who get paid by them, are calling “Global Warming.” While our ice cores only allow direct measurement of the planet’s atmospheric carbon content no more than 800 thousand years ago, analysis of ocean bed cores allow us to understand the carbon content of our atmosphere many millions of years ago. For instance, 250 million years ago, we know the carbon content of our atmosphere was four-to-five times greater than it is at present. Around 500 million years ago, it was twenty-to-thirty times greater. So, the scientific fact remains that, at present, our planet’s atmosphere is experiencing an (almost) all-time planetary carbon LOW!!!!! I’ve tried to keep this pretty simple. But since solar panels actually only generate power half of the time they’re sitting in place, and since they don’t generate peak power but a few of the hours they do function, it becomes a pretty silly discussion.
Dear Paul, I see your point, but it turns out that those of us with solar panels are not “off the grid system”. I’m on the system and I feed it. I’m a good neighbor—I help build my neighbor’s security because if demand is high, I’m not adding to demand. I’m adding to the energy available. I’m also helping the energy company because it doesn’t have to build another plant as more customers join the grid. The more of us in Wyoming who get solar and are on the grid, the greater is our local energy security and the less we are burdening our children with greenhouse gas emissions. Net metering should stay because we have free solar pouring over our state, and anyone using it is helping promote local jobs, helping increase grid security, and reducing the emissions that are blanketing our planet, warming our rivers, increasing our droughts, reducing snowpack, and causing extreme floods. (If you’re interested I can tell you about the difference for someone who chooses to go off grid—it requires a whole system of battery banks. Most of us who live on small lots are not choosing off-grid. We are just making energy and contributing to the good of our local grid)
It seems to me that forcing everyone to participate in the electrical grid in order to support that grid goes against freedom of choice that so many legislators claim to value.
if you install solar panels on your property that is great.
you should be off the grid system since you are now generating your own electricity.
to get Paid for excess electricity you generate is having your cake & ice cream too !
the electric grid was not built by you to sell excess power to me.
Less than 1 percent accounts for residential solar generation. Thats far from having your cake and ice cream.
The power company doesn’t see a concern with residential solar. Why do our elected “leaders”?
I am all for net-metering, the rate paid by the utility to the residential and small producer should be the wholesale price the utility has to pay for energy it purchases on the wholesale market. A watt produced at noon on a sunny day is not worth the same as a watt available at 6 pm on a stormy winter day.
The argument against solar and net-marketing is makes no sense whatsoever. If having solar puts a burden on others, are you then going to punish people who just reduce their electric use by other means other than solar – like turning lights off, getting more energy efficient appliances etc? It also wouldn’t be fair if the utility company got excess power, from a solar system I’m paying for, for free. Just like the bill that was introduced to outlaw selling electric cars in Wyoming, this all seems like a scheme to once again protect the coal companies. They’ve forced electric companies to keep using coal even if there are cheaper options causing consumers to pay more. So they are OK with electricity consumers “subsidizing” the coal industry, but yet make a false claim that reducing you electric intake as a consumer is making others subsidize you.
Hmm, I fail to see how being compensated for producing a valuable commodity at a fair market price is inequitable. In its simplest form: if I grew 10 apples, but only needed 2, and sold the other 8 to you at fair market price, is it cheating. I paid to grow the apples. By your reasoning, if I grow 10 apples, I must eat 10 apples. Moreover, I should not be allowed to buy apples in the grocery store.