(KCPW News) The Utah Public Service Commission will consider expanding the state's solar power net metering program at a public meeting next month. Net metering allows utility customers to sell back the solar energy they produce. Kelly Knutsen with Utah Clean Energy says if approved, the expansion would push the state to the forefront of the solar movement with one of the largest net metering allowances in the nation.
"This is a significant increase," Knutsen says. "The fact that the Public Service Commission has recommended 20 percent of the peak capacity is quite a substantial jump and a real gain for solar in Utah if this is approved. "
The current participation cap for the program is set so low, the new Salt Lake County solar power initiative could max out the state's current net metering allotment. But the commission is considering boosting the cap by nearly 20 percent or eliminating it altogether.
Knutsen says the move could eliminate a major barrier to solar power generation: the cost.
"Financing is one of the biggest barriers to solar. And net metering helps with that financing in the sense that, if you have a system on your house, let's say even during the summertime, and you're not home. So now you've got your solar system: It's working hard; it's generating a lot of electricity. But you don't have any use at home during the day. Then, this allows the utility to use that electricity that's being generated and you're getting the cost benefit of that," Knutsen says.
The current net metering cap was outlined in a law passed by the legislature last year. But in the same law, the legislature gave the Public Service Commission the power to adjust the cap, if needed. The public hearing on the net metering changes is set for early January.