Small Steps on the Long Road to Raising the Louisiana Net Metering Cap

Louisiana just moved one step closer to addressing one of the state’s major barriers to individual solar adoption; the state’s super uber small net metering cap. Louisiana currently caps net metering participation at just 0.5 percent of each utility’s peak demand – which is one of the smallest caps in the country. Several utilities have been claiming that they had reached their caps, effectively slamming the brakes on continued rooftop solar growth.

Solar panels on a roof in the 9th Ward in New Orleans

Yesterday, the PSC ordered a comprehensive study of the costs and benefits of net metering, as a first step to determining how to lift the cap. Solar advocates have been calling for a study for months, and we applaud the PSC’s decision as important forward progress for enabling continued consumer choice and solar job growth in the state.

Importantly, the Commission did NOT approve yet another utility-backed proposal to weaken Louisiana’s existing net metering law.  This anti-consumer, anti-net metering proposal would have significantly undervalued the reliable, local clean energy that solar customers deliver to the grid for the utility to resell.

We are confident that if the upcoming evaluation process is comprehensive and transparent, the facts will show that net metering is a fair policy that delivers tremendous benefits to all ratepayers. That is of course a big IF. Vote Solar and our allies will continue fighting hard for a robust, fair and transparent process that fully recognizes the benefits rooftop solar brings to the Bayou State.  Specifically, we will be advocating for three priority outcomes:

#1: The PSC should undertake a study of the value of distributed solar so we can have a fact-based conversation about net metering.  The PSC should complete a study on the benefits and costs of distributed solar, and this study should account for the unique value of distributed generation, including reduced need for transmission & generation infrastructure, decreased line loss and other substantive ratepayer benefits. The following guidebook from IREC should be used to set the parameters and methodology of the study:  A REGULATOR’S GUIDEBOOK: Calculating the Benefits and Costs of Distributed Solar Generation.  

#2: Lift the net metering cap: Louisiana currently caps participation in the net metering program at 0.5% of each utility’s peak demand, one of the most restrictive in the nation. We call on the PSC to raise this unjustified barrier to growth and enable continued private solar investment.

#3: Standardize net metering cap calculation: The PSC should determine how each utility should calculate and implement the net metering cap. Currently, there is no process from the PSC on how to calculate the net metering caps. In the absence of such direction from the PSC, each utility has implemented the cap at its own discretion. This has resulted in inequities across the state and the aforementioned disputed claims from some utilities about having already hit their caps.

Dozens of solar advocates and employees turned up in Baton Rouge yesterday to urge positive PSC action on expanding the net metering program, which is widely supported by Louisianans. A recent poll we released with our local partners at the Alliance for Affordable Energy showed that Louisiana voters overwhelmingly support the use and expansion of solar energy to power their homes and businesses.  Fully three quarters are in favor of increasing participation in the state’s near-capacity net metering program.

While there is still a long road ahead, yesterday set the stage for a fact-based discussion about the future of net metering in the state. We look forward to continuing that discussion and encouraging the Commission to stand up for the Louisianans they serve by clearing the way for more to go solar.

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