Mississippi PSC Modifies Distributed Generation, Promotes Solar Adoption

In a bipartisan vote the Mississippi Public Service Commission has approved amendments of the Net Metering and Interconnection Rules. They are now called the Net Renewable Generation Rules. The new rules were adopted to encourage solar adoption across the board, increase grid reliability, and economic development. They also aim to improve access to solar for low and middle-income residents.

Net generation is a billing procedure that allows property owners with distributed-generation (DG) capacity from wind turbines or solar panels to sell their excess generation capacity back into the grid in the form credits. This docket was opened pursuant to the December 2015 Order Adopting Net Metrics reopener directive. It is intended to allow for consideration of any necessary revisions to these Rules.

Multiple parties made written comments following the opening of the docket. These comments were reviewed and accepted by the commission. A draft rule was published in this docket as well as with the Secretary-of-State in January. After the March 1 open meeting, additional written comments were sought and received. A public hearing was held. After careful consideration of all written comments and the testimony presented at public hearing, staff from the commission have prepared a Final Order Amending Rules.

The names of the rules as well as the terminology throughout the rules have been changed to refer to Net Renewable Generation rather than Net Metering. These changes were made to better reflect what type of distributed generation program is made available under these rules. This is not traditional Net Metering but rather a general compensation program behind-the-meter distributed.

The 2.5 cents/kWh Distributed Generation Benefits Adder will be retained, but it will be grandfathered in for a 25-year period. The 25-year grandfathering of low-income benefits additions is also done.

Customers with annual household incomes up to 250% of the federal poverty line are now eligible for the low-income benefits supplement.

The rule now includes meter aggregation provisions. This allows customers with multiple meters to use energy generated by one distributed-generation (DG) system to offset their consumption on all eligible meters. To be eligible for aggregation, all meters must be located on the same premises or within the service area of the customers’ current electrical provider.

DG customers no longer need to transfer RECs into their utilities in order to receive the 2.5 cents per kWh Distributed Generation Benefits Adder. However, if a customer chooses to receive an up front rebate, they may be required transfer their RECs in order to receive the rebate.

The definition of net generation was revised to reflect that smart meters and advanced metering infrastructure can be used to eliminate special metering requirements. The rule now expressly states that battery storage systems shall not affect the total nameplate capacity of a customer’s DG system. The rule will now define system capacity limits in terms of alternating rather than direct current.

The participation cap of 3% has been increased and modified from the previous hard limit. Now, utilities may seek commission approval to refuse additional DG customers if and when participation reaches 4% of the utility’s total system peak demand.

Similarly, rather than including a mandatory reopener provision, the rule now permits the commission to exercise its discretion in deciding whether to reopen the rulemaking for additional changes at the earliest of either 5 years from the date of this order, or the point at which total net distributed generation capacity reaches 4% of the utilities’ system peak demand.

These amendments to the Rules were not the only changes made to the Order. The Order also contains provisions that instruct utilities to file separate filings for approval of Solar-for Schools programs and up-front rebates for distributed-generation systems. This initiative will provide public schools with the opportunity to increase energy efficiency, reinvest in academic programs, as well as make students aware about these new technologies.

“It is my honor to serve as Commissioner during the final adoption of the Net Renewable Generation Rules,” states Central District Commissioner Brent Bailey. “These new rules will make Mississippi open to business to clean energy technology developers, manufacturers, and installers, and will help boost low-income opportunities allowing Mississippians to experience the cost-saving benefits of solar energy. It was a pleasure to work with customers and other stakeholders, as well as renewable energy businesses, clean energy advocates, and other stakeholders to improve our MPSC distributed generator policy. This policy standardizes the opportunities for individuals and businesses to invest in distributed energy resources to offset all or a portion of their overall energy use with electricity generated from on-site resources.”

“I am proud to have worked over the past 18 months to remove market barriers for consumers who want to generate their own electricity,” states Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley. “This well-balanced rule will allow for real opportunities for the creation of good paying blue collar jobs in the solar industry. Mississippians can grow their own food, fix their cars and should have the opportunity to generate their own electricity to save money. This balanced, measured approach by the PSC opens the door of opportunity.”

“Also, under our Solar-for-Schools program, school districts will have the opportunity to maximize the value of their lands and see savings that can be passed on to taxpayers and hopefully lighten the onerous costs borne by parents and teachers for such things as classroom supplies,” adds Presley.