Hardwick Electric Department raises net metering cap

The Hardwick Electric Department board voted on Nov. 13 to accept an additional 125 kilowatts of renewable power from small scale net metering projects or 2 percent more than the previous net metering cap, according to a press release from the utility.

In June, the local utility stopped allowing new customers to feed renewable power into the grid. At that point, Hardwick Electric Department had reached the 4 percent level recommended by the state. Now that cap is set at 6 percent.

Net metering allows small scale renewable energy producers to feed surplus power to the grid. The energy producer “spins the meter backwards,” but does not make money on the power used by utilities. Solar projects are the most common form of net metering.

Wayne Young, chair of the Hardwick Electric Department’s board of directors, said in a statement that the board reviewed its position over the past six months and determined that raising the cap is the best option for the department and the communities it serves. The board was initially concerned that raising the cap would create an undue economic burden on the utility or ratepayers, but after study and deliberation determined that would not be the case.

“The financial impact of net metering on all ratepayers was carefully weighed by the board along with public sentiment gained at two well-attended public forums in Hardwick,” Young said. “The board has also reviewed the decisions of other utilities wrestling with the Vermont net metering program and is cognizant of changes to the program expected this legislative session.”

The Vermont Legislature is expected to review the impact of net metering on the grid in the second year of the biennium, which begins in January.

Hardwick Electric’s decision to raise the cap will allow Sterling College to pursue a planned 56 kilowatt solar project. Officials say that the utility will create a “first come, first served” project queue because of demand for renewable net metering projects.

Sterling College will now go ahead with permitting for the installation of 10 AllSun Trackers on the campus in Craftsbury. Sterling has two trackers on campus and solar panels on a barn. The additional solar trackers will allow the college to get more than 80 percent of its electricity from solar power, according to a statement released Monday. The college is also working to lower its overall energy consumption through conservation.

Matthew Derr, president of Sterling College, praised Hardwick Electric’s forward looking approach. In a statement, he said Hardwick Electric is “proving itself to be a leader for the future of local, renewable energy in Vermont.”

Projects that do not have a Certificate of Public Good within a reasonable timeframe could risk losing their place in the queue, according to the press release.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:04 a.m. Nov. 19.

Follow Anne on Twitter @GallowayVTD

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