Net metering is currently available for renewable energy retail customers in the state of Illinois, but changes may be forthcoming for customers of Ameren as a result of recent developments involving the power company and installed net metering capacity.
Net Metering Illinois
As things stand, net metering is available to any Illinois retail customer that “owns or operates solar, wind, or other eligible renewable energy generating facility with a rated capacity of not more than 2,000 kilowatts that is located on the customer’s premises and is intended primarily to offset the customer’s own electrical requirements.” This is stated under Illinois law (220 ILCS 5/16-107.5).
Small customers (i.e. homeowners, small businesses) may receive a kWh credit for the net electricity supplied to their utility. This credit is at the retail rate—for both distribution and supply charges. Non-residential customers (as well as owners/developers of community solar projects) may apply for a rebate of $250 per kilowatt of the nameplate capacity of the solar project—they are ineligible for retail rate net metering.
It is outlined in Illinois law that once installed net metering capacity reaches a certain threshold (5% of the total peak demand supplied by that utility provider in the previous year), retail rate net metering will no longer be available for new net metering customers who are otherwise qualified.
Ameren has notified the Illinois Commerce Commission that this 5% threshold has been reached. This somewhat unexpected notice has ramifications for new customers applying for net metering. As a result of Ameren hitting the 5% threshold, those otherwise qualified new customers applying for net metering service will not receive retail net metering. Instead, they will receive supply-only net metering. However, those eligible customers applying for the $250/kW rebate will continue to receive it until a new rebate value has been determined. The notice from Ameren has caused something of a furore, as many solar energy industry and environmental advocates seek the continuation of retail rate net metering until the matter has been fully and comprehensively investigated and resolved.
Investigating the Issue
The Illinois Commerce Commission, which presides exclusively over matters of Illinois utility net metering, has opened two investigations into this matter:
An investigation into Ameren’s net metering rider in order to determine whether Ameren has, in fact, reached the 5% threshold and is justified in its decision to end retail rate net metering.
An investigation into the process and formula which is used to calculate the value of distributed generation rebates.
The investigation into Ameren’s net metering rider is to be completed by early November. Until such a time as the investigation has been completed and the issue resolved, it is understood that retail rate net metering will remain unavailable for new, otherwise-qualifying Ameren net metering customers. The second investigation, concerning the value of distributed generation rebates, will take longer and is set to conclude in the spring of 2021.
As Things Stand
Though investigations into the matter are ongoing, there is no immediate impact on net metering in the Commonwealth Edison territory. It also understood that customers already in receipt of retail rate net metering from Ameren will continue to receive net metering credits at that amount. For further information on the status of new/continuing net metering credits, customers are advised to contact Ameren directly.
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