Clean energy leaders and municipalities urge legislators to raise caps on virtual net metering
HARTFORD, CONN. – May 12, 2021 – Connecticut solar industry leaders and municipalities are calling for changes to Connecticut’s laws to make it easier for cities and towns, state-entities, agricultural businesses, and critical facilities to benefit from reduced electricity costs while embracing clean energy. The solar industry is working with municipalities across the state to help them reduce electricity costs with clean energy through the expansion of the state’s Virtual Net Metering (VNM) program.
VNM allows cities and towns, state-owned buildings, and agriculture businesses to receive credits on their electric bills for excess energy produced by a solar project, even if the project is not located on their property. Since its 2011 launch in Connecticut, VNM has become popular among “off takers” because of the significant cost savings it provides to participants. In an average case, a 1 MW AC VNM solar project can help reduce energy bills by $50,000 per year or $1,000,000 over twenty years. In addition to reducing electricity costs, expanding VNM will create hundreds of new Connecticut jobs and help to increase the adoption of clean energy in Connecticut, which contributes to the state meeting its ambitious goal of a zero carbon emissions electric supply by 2040.
Unfortunately, in Connecticut, VNM has been constrained by state law which imposes an arbitrary cap on the number of credits that municipal, state, and agricultural customers can claim. As a result, there is a large backlog of cities, towns, and state-owned properties unable to take advantage of VNM’s cost-saving benefits, including:
|Branford||Hartford||North Haven||West Hartford|
|East Windsor||New London||Southington||Windham|
“An increase in the VNM cap would have a nearly immediate positive impact on municipalities, state-owned properties, agricultural businesses, and Connecticut’s solar industry,” said William Herchel, CEO of Verogy a Hartford-based solar energy company. “Connecticut is a little behind its peer states in supporting the growth of solar energy. Expanding VNM now would help Connecticut to catch up and get us closer to reaching the state’s zero carbon goals.”
Since VNM laws already exist, there is no need for legislators to develop an entirely new concept. All the necessary rules and regulations for VNM are in place which would allow for a quick activation and provide near-immediate financial benefits to municipalities, state institutions, and critical facilities. Additionally, removing the cap on VNM capacity would not impact the state budget.
“The Virtual Net Metering program is unique because all taxpayers have an opportunity to share in the cost savings associated with a local project enrolled in the program,” said Justin Malley, Executive Director of Economic and Community Development for the City of Bristol. “The energy cost savings – combined with the project’s real estate tax payments – help stabilize the mill rate and reduce property taxes. As a taxpayer, it is rewarding to drive by a large solar project in the neighborhood, for example, and know that the project has a direct, positive impact on the community.”
By raising the VNM cap, policymakers can help municipalities save taxpayer dollars, spur the creation of clean energy jobs for Connecticut residents, and ultimately help the state achieve its carbon emissions goals.
“We are constantly looking for opportunities to decrease our energy costs in a sustainable way,” said Catherine Diviney, Energy Specialist for the Town of West Hartford. “Virtual Net Metering is a valuable addition to the extensive on-site generation that we currently have on our schools and municipal buildings. More towns should be able to participate.”
“Every time a new distributed renewable energy project turns on, we all benefit, from the grid to the environment,” said Herchel. “While energy programs can be complex, VNM has been proven to work and we believe its benefits far outweigh the cost.”
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