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Designing Compensation for Distributed Solar Generation: Is Net Metering Ever Optimal?

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Abstract:
Electricity customers who install solar panels often are paid the prevailing retail price for the electricity they generate. We demonstrate that this rate of compensation typically is not optimal. A payment for distributed generation (w) that is below the retail price of electricity (r) often will induce the welfare-maximizing level of distributed generation (DG) when the fixed costs of centralized electricity production and the network management costs of accommodating intermittent solar DG are large, and when centralized generation and DG produce similar (pollution) externalities. w can optimally exceed r under alternative conditions. The optimal DG compensation policy varies considerably as industry conditions change. Furthermore, a requirement to equate w and r can reduce aggregate welfare substantially and can generate pronounced distributional effects.

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Energy Specializations: Electricity – Generation Technologies; Electricity – Transmission and Network Management; Electricity – Local Distribution; Electricity – Distributed Generation; Electricity - Storage; Renewables – Solar

JEL Codes:
Q2 -
D44 - Auctions
L94 - Electric Utilities
D41 - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design: Perfect Competition
Q51 - Valuation of Environmental Effects

Keywords: Electricity pricing, Distributed generation, Net metering

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.38.3.dbro

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Published in Volume 38, Number 3 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.