Many energy consumers understand that under net energy metering policies they can use the utility’s grid like a battery, generating a retail bill credit for excess electricity they generate using solar or other qualified distributed energy generation sources.

Going Virtual

Recently some sectors have been allowed to take advantage of “Virtual Net Metering” (VNM) policy, which allows multi-meter property owner to allocate an eligible system’s energy credits to other meters.  This program was piloted under the California Solar Initiative‘s Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing Program (MASH), and HelioPower played a leading role deploying some of the earliest VNM projects (see below).  Similarly, California municipalities can take advantage of the Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer Program (RES-BCT) policy, which permits allocation of excess  bill credits within their jurisdiction.

How Virtual Net Metering Saves Money

VNM has been a success, because it allows system owners to aggregate energy production at one location.  This provides economies of scale and location.  For example an apartment complex might concentrate a solar installation on a single, sunny flat-roofed community center using a single inverter and electrical interconnect rather than running wires from many solar panels on many roofs through many inverters to many meters.  A municipality might install a distributed generation solution at a remote storage yard and use excess generation to offset expensive downtown office electric bills.

Commercial Limitations

To date affordable housing developers and municipalities  have enjoyed a virtual monopoly on Virtual Net Metering.  Recently the VNM program was expanded to permit virtual net metering to other multi-meter properties… as long as those meters were behind the “Service Delivery Point”, which often times is at the meter, thus effectively eliminating VNM benefits.

A Breakthrough For Commercial – Expanded Virtual Net Metering

A year ago Governor Brown approved SB592 (Wolk) which expands VNM by permitting customers to aggregate leads across multiple meters on on all property adjacent or contiguous, regardless of the Service Delivery Point… as long as the program would not burden ineligible customer-generators.  Today the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) submitted Draft Resolution Resolution E-4610, in which they found that no such burden exists.  The CPUC will hear this resolution on Sept 19, and within 2 weeks it appears likely the big 3 utilities will have to modify their rates to accommodate Expanded Virtual Net Energy Metering.   Here is a summary of that resolution:

Proposed Outcome: The Commission finds that allowing eligible customer-generators to aggregate their load from multiple meters, pursuant to Senate Bill (SB) 594 (Wolk, 2012), will not result in an increase in the expected revenue obligations of customers who are not eligible customer-generators. Within fourteen (14) days of the issuance of this resolution, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison Company (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) shall each file a Tier 2 Advice Letter revising their Net Energy Metering (NEM) tariffs to enable meter aggregation pursuant to SB 594.

HelioPower’s Virtual Net Metering Experience

HelioPower was early to develop the MASH marketplace and I developed among the first VNM projects in each of the major regulated utilities: Las Serenas in SDG&E, and Sunrise Vista in SCE and Sherwood Village in PG&E territory. We’ve also worked with various municipalities to implement RES-BCT projects.
HelioPower understands VNM’s economic levers, and we have  deep experience engineering solutions to leverage the economies of scale and location afforded by this policy.  We also know how to navigate the VNM application process.

If your business has multiple meters stay tuned to this blog, where I’ll be providing insights on VNM policy, economics, and engineering, always with an eye towards creating value for commercial energy consumers.  For breaking news, follow me on Twitter: @TMillhoff