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Governor Enacts Law Expediting Net-Metered Connections

By on August 7, 2016

SAN JUAN – Gov. Alejandro García Padilla has signed into law a Senate bill that seeks to expedite the connection of customers’ renewable energy systems to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) grid. The announcement was made Sunday.

Senate Bill 1666 seeks to modernize Prepa’s net-metering program, requiring the utility to have power meters that can be read remotely. The new law also requires the creation of a website that allows customers to file documents electronically to meet net-metering regulations. It also expedites net-metered connections by requiring that Prepa develop expedited processes for power distributors with a capacity that is lower than 1-megawatt to connect to the utility’s grid.   

The legislation also promotes community solar grids to facilitate the use of solar energy in poor communities as well as the so-called micro grids.

The Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC) and the Senate were at odds over the new law during public hearings because the entity is evaluating new net-metering regulations submitted by Prepa and the entity viewed the bill as an obstacle.

Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners or owners of other renewables for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a solar power grid on a home’s rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours.

During hearings on the bill months ago José G. Maeso, director of the State Office of Energy Public Policy, told the Senate that while his office supports all efforts to improve the process to interconnect renewables, Prepa already had drafted new net-metering regulations.

He asked that any attempt to improve and make the net-metering process more agile does not hinder the processes currently taking place.

Puerto Rico enacted net-metering legislation in August 2007, allowing Prepa customers to use electricity generated by solar, wind or “other” renewable energy resources to offset their power usage. The law applies to residential systems with a generating capacity of up to 25 kilowatts (kW) and nonresidential systems up to 1 megawatt, according to a summary of the law.

While net metering has created jobs and helped many customers reduce energy costs, critics say Prepa often delays to connect the alternative systems to the grid. Act 57 of 2014, known as the energy reform, required Prepa to hasten the use of renewables and net-metered connections.

In this Feb. 4, 2016 photo, a worker from the Energy Theft Control Unit with Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority holds an electric meter with busted glass during an inspection in Carolina, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

A Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority worker holds an electric meter with busted glass. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

However, Carlos Parés, executive director of Somos Solar, which supports SB 1666, posited in public hearings that Prepa rejects most net-metered connection requests, arguing that energy meters of renewable systems were not visible or accessible.

The new law would prevent Prepa from approving any additional requirements to net metering that are inconsistent with the law.

At the Senate hearings, Prepa Executive Director Javier Quintana denied that the utility was hindering connections of renewable energy sources or that it was not increasing the amount of energy produced through renewables.

Since 2011, the utility has purchased energy from renewable energy companies such as Pattern Santa Isabel, Punta Lima Wind Farm, AES Ilumina (an Applied Energy Services Corp.), Windmar Cantera Martinó, San Fermín Solar Farm, Horizon Energy and Landfill Gas Technology.

There are three renewable projects under construction and two more will start this year, “until we reach 600 megawatts. This is the capacity of renewable energy that can be safely integrated to our electric system,” he said.

Quintana explained that current net-metering regulations, adopted by Prepa after the 2007 law, include expedited processes that simplify the connections. He said the regulations are based on guidelines established by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission through the Small Generator Interconnections Procedures and Small Generator Interconnection Agreement.

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