Greentech Media’s recent post, “Solar’s Net Metering Under Attack,” illustrates the growing debate over the sustainability of policies meant to grow our renewable future. In this case, net energy metering (NEM) was the focus of a spirited debate between Travis Bradford, founder of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, and Westinghouse Solar CEO, Barry Cinnamon, at the GTM Solar Summit in Phoenix, AZ last week.
At Rocky Mountain Institute, we agree that these issues are critical as the market for distributed renewables continues to grow, as we expect it will — and believe it should. The bottom line: Cinnamon and Bradford are both right. And on least one point, they agree: Net metering is only a symptom of a much deeper challenge.
The U.S. electricity system is changing (and a customer becoming a power generator is only one example). Our 21st-century technology is colliding with institutional structures that have remained relatively unchanged since the 20th century. In fact, both Cinnamon and Bradford identified the real issues at play: taking a renewed look at the costs and benefits of distributed generation, the fair allocation of these costs and benefits, and rethinking the underlying rate structures and business models that pit utilities against the growing demand for clean, green, distributed generation.