Tanton: The Benefits & Costs of Net Metering: Brookings Gets It Wrong

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by Tom Tanton, E&E Legal Director of Science and Technology Assessment
As Appearing in Real Clear Policy

In the ever evolving yet mostly hidden world of electricity policy, the hot topic is “net metering.” Is it a policy whose time has come? Or is it an idea with deficiencies that need to be addressed?

The Brookings Institution recently published a report concluding that net metering provides a net social benefit. Unfortunately, however, the report’s analysis ultimately fails, botching what could have been a thoughtful look at this important issue. Perhaps worse, various publications, including the Las Vegas Review Journal, have unquestioningly accepted Brookings’ erroneous conclusions. But the report, Rooftop Solar: Net Metering Is A Net Benefit, suffers from four fatal flaws and should not be used to guide public policy on net metering.

What is net metering? It’s a way for households and businesses to generate their own electricity, usually with rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which convert sunshine directly into electricity. Net metering comes into play when the system puts out more electricity than the household or business is using, enabling the PV owner to sell the excess back to the local electric utility. Net metering in one form or another is mandated in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories, though the prices paid for the excess power, eligibility, and limits vary.

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