Utilities push for solar energy fees

"Utilities seek fees from solar-energy users" Dayton Daily News -- Bob Billings produces enough electricity to power his home for seven months of the year with two 24-panel solar arrays on the roof of a pole barn on his property in Bethel Twp., Miami County.

Any excess electricity he produces goes through his meter and back into the power grid of the Pioneer Electric Cooperative, his utility provider, which credits him for his surplus renewable energy. 

Bob Billings is a Bethel Twp. resident who has a solar array on a pole barn on his property. Ohio law allows customers who use renewable energy to connect to the electrical grid to feed the electricity produced from their systems to the utility, a process called “net metering.” However, potential changes to Ohio’s net metering rules could upset that equation.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has been working for three years to determine a fair net metering policy for the state. “From about April to October, I essentially generate about as much as I use,” said Billings, a retired engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Billings typically uses his accumulated credits in November, and then pays Pioneer for electricity during the months when his array produces less than he uses.

Ohio’s two biggest utilities, FirstEnergy and American Electric Power, have taken PUCO to the state Supreme Court over the commission’s January 2014 ruling about how much utilities must pay solar owners for excess electricity they put back into the power grid, as well as how much surplus power utilities are required to buy from those customers.