Virtual Net-Metering Comes to DC

In the midst of a nightmarish government shutdown, the city of Washington DC finally has some good news: the DC city council voted unanimously to allow virtual net-metering.

What exactly is virtual net-metering? It’s a way to increase individual access to the benefits of solar power by overcoming financial and regulatory hurdles. Whereas traditional net-metering allows homeowners with solar panels to sell some of the solar-generated electricity back to the grid, thereby reducing their electricity bill, virtual net-metering takes it one step further. It allows individuals to buy a portion of a community solar or wind project. The electricity produced by their portion will be then sold back to the grid and their electricity bill will be reduced accordingly.

DC joins ten states who have instituted virtual-net metering policies: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Virtual net-metering presents a real opportunity for renewable energy by increasing access to technology that had previously been considered out-of-reach for most Americans. It’s estimated that 75% of Americans, for example, live in residential buildings that are unable to install solar power, either because of limited access to sunlight or the simple fact that they live in an apartment building.

City utilities have typically been resistant to net-metering policies, but solar advocates were surprised by how cooperative Pepco was throughout the legislative process. According to one advocate, “There was a lot of skepticism from Pepco at the beginning. But they actually worked with us in good faith on this bill and spent literally hundreds of hours of staff time.”

Officials believe that virtual net-metering will help build momentum for large-scale renewable energy projects in the city. Hopefully virtual net-metering's emergence will continue to allow greater access to renewable energy.