BEREA - Three local organizations will be giving a presentation June 5 to the Berea City Council in support of a long-term commitment to the net metering program that began as a trial at Berea College three years ago.
The groups include Sustainable Berea, the League of Women Voters of Berea and Madison County and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.
“Net metering” is a term to describe the situation in which residences or commercial buildings with solar or wind systems produce more electricity than needed at certain times of day, and put that energy back onto the electric grid for use by other consumers.
The electric utility measures the amount of energy taken from the grid and the amount contributed to the grid from renewable energy, with the “net” amount billed to the customer.
Berea College, which owned the city’s electric utility at the time, began the three-year trial on Sept. 30, 2003. The pilot program later became the responsibility of the city after it purchased the utilities.
The organization’s proposal includes the following reasons as to why net metering would be beneficial with a long-term agreement: encouraging home and business owners to make an unspecified contribution required to pioneer the transition toward greater reliance on clean, renewable sources of electricity; no city budget appropriation would be required because the small-scale trial would not have a direct cost and also would not create any extra funding for the city; it could encourage the merging of local and regional businesses; and net metering already is used in Kentucky and at least 35 other states.
According to facts sent to Berea Utility Committee members last year by League of Women Voters President Elizabeth Crowe, several state and federal policies “have statutes and/or policies that require utility companies to provide some form of net metering service for customers who request the service.”
The organizations also are claiming that net metering will not threaten the city’s utility revenues and could have the positive effect of creating new businesses, Crowe wrote.
“Though Kentucky boasts some of the lowest electricity rates in the nation, these costs already are rising, and that trend is certain to continue,” she said.
Their request is for the city to simply continue the net metering program.
Kentucky Utilities, LG&E and Union Light, Heat and Power are the only businesses that offer a net metering option to their customers.
College Utilities recently has proposed a net metering service, but it’s still awaiting state Public Service Commission approval.
Josh Bills, a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and owner of Sunbelievable Services, said that net metering is a way to keep taxpayers’ funds in the area.
“Net metering gives residents an opportunity to invest in technology that reduces air pollution and a way to invest in their local economy,” Bills said. “Dollars that would otherwise go out of the community to pay for energy supplies are directed instead to local contractors and installers. That translates into more jobs and more jobs in Berea.”
Net metering already is the law for investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives operating in the state of Kentucky.
However, only municipally owned utilities (like Berea) are exempt from a law that Kentuckians for the Commonwealth members helped push through the 2004 General Assembly.
The authorization for that program ended in September 2006, and the city council must soon vote to allow the reinstatement of net metering in Berea.
For more information, call Crowe at 985-0641, Richard or Cheyenne Olson of Sustainable Berea at 985-1689 or Steve Boyce with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth at 986-9210.
Ronica Shannon can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 234.