Net Metering Policy
The Block Island Utility District’s current Net Metering Tariff. (pdf)
The Current Net Metering rate is $0 .1330/kWh
What are the steps I need to take before I install solar?
STEP 1: CONTACT THE POWER COMPANY (A BIUD member wanting to explore a solar installation should contact the power company first. The conversation with the member will focus on the commercial terms of the tariff and the interconnection requirements)
STEP 2: SELECT AN INSTALLER (The BIUD member should solicit some proposals from qualified RI solar installers)
STEP 3: COMPLETE A BIUD NET METERING APPLICATION (Upon selection of an installer, the BIUD member and the installer need to complete a BIUD net metering application)
STEP 4: WAIT FOR POWER COMPANY APPROVAL (The power company will review the project with the developer and will send the member, installer and the TNS building official a copy of the approved application)
STEP 5: GET ALL NECESSARY TOWN PERMITS (The installer then applies for and obtains all the necessary permits from the TNS Building OfficiaL)
STEP 6: INSTALL, INSPECT AND TURN ON (Construction can begin and coordination of the interconnection will be coordinated with BIUD and the TNS Building Official.
History of Net Metering on Block Island
In 2019, the Block Island Utility District (BIUD) reached the state-mandated 3% cap on net metered projects and we were forced to temporarily shut down the net metering program. Reaching the cap was accelerated by the creation of the BI Solar Initiative which was supported by the RI Foundation and a local philanthropist. They installed more than 20 systems on rooftops in one summer and used up the remaining capacity quickly. Honestly, it caught us all off-guard.
In 2020, we submitted legislation to amend the net metering statute to allow us to set our own cap. Covid caused all forward progress to stop, but in 2021 we were successful in lobbying the General Assembly and the net metering statute was amended, which now allows us to set our own cap. While this was happening our Board worked hard on a new net metering tariff which was recently approved by the RI-PUC. It went into effect April 1, 2022. We are about to roll that out and get the program back on its feet and we’re excited about it.
Some facts pertaining to the new tariff:
- We have raised the cap from 3% of our peak load to 10% of our peak load. An increase of more than 3X.
- During our shoulder months, which is a low load period, that 10% of peak load equals approximately 50% of our load.
- Today, in fact, we are serving about 30% of our daytime winter/shoulder period load with solar.
- Once we reach the 10% cap, we will already have a proposal to increase the cap further. Each step is a chance to evaluate the program and how it serves Block Island. Our collective goal is to go as close to 100% solar during the low load periods as possible (we have to be careful approaching 100% because we are prohibited by National Grid to export power on the submarine cable).
- All consumer classes are allowed to connect solar – we are among very few utilities in the country that allow this.
Some facts that are viewed by at least one solar developer as anti-solar and anti-renewable are:
- New projects must be metered separately, primarily so we can use our AMI system to disconnect the output if we are on diesel engines and the intermittent output on a cloudy day causes instability.
- BIUD will bill all kWh consumed at the retail rate (using the consumption meter) and will credit the solar output using the generation meter.
- The credit is based on our true avoided cost PLUS all transmission/capacity benefits.
- The rate is adjusted annually and as our power costs go up, the credit will increase. Of course, the same will be true if power costs go down, the credit will go down.
As part of the tariff, members will be reimbursed up to $1,000 towards the cost of the second meter.
RI is one of few states that allow regulated utilities to develop their own net metering policy and tariff. We held two years of public meetings and heard from net metering members as well as non-net metering members. We were 100% transparent in all our deliberations and really struggled in the process to find the right answers. The two local solar developers were present at most of these meetings.
We feel we have a good tariff that was well vetted by our members and although the program may not be as profitable for developer/installers, we feel it is fair and continues to promote solar.
The Utility District took this on as one of their first tough tasks. We went to Providence many nights (via Zoom because of Covid of course) lobbying to change the 3% cap. Our policy was thoroughly vetted by the PUC and approved by them this year.