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Small Utilities Say Subsidized ‘Net-Metering’ Projects Could Trigger Rate Increases

Mike Sullivan, the general manager at Hardwick Electric, says net-metered solar projects could lead to a rate increase for his rural utility. Photo by John Dillon for VPR

Mike Sullivan, the general manager at Hardwick Electric, says net-metered solar projects could lead to a rate increase for his rural utility. Photo by John Dillon for VPR

Small electric utilities around Vermont are concerned their customers will face higher bills to pay for a boom in solar projects. Last month, the utilities complained to regulators about the subsidies they have to pay for certain solar projects.

Hardwick Electric — a small, publicly-owned utility that serves 4,300 customers in 11 rural towns — is feeling the impact of the solar surge.

General Manager Mike Sullivan is a 30-year veteran of the utility industry, and he said solar projects that qualify for a program known as “net-metering” cost ratepayers money.

“We want to serve our customers as best as we can and give them quality, reliable power for the lowest price we can — and net metering doesn’t really help us accomplish that mission,” Sullivan said.

Under Vermont’s net-metering program, a utility essentially has to buy the output of a project at above market rates, although the amount varies depending on size and location.

Visit VPR for the full story.