This week, Connecticut regulators decided that they would ensure a more transparent process for the Connecticut “value of solar” study. This study will be used to see how much solar users should be compensated for the energy they produce under Connecticut’s net metering program.

Originally, regulators had waived the usual prohibition on “ex parte communications”—i.e. private conversations—between regulators and parties providing information for the study. Solar advocates were immediately against the decision, fearing this lack of transparency could cause the study to depict biased results.

After months of fighting, regulators have decided to limit these private conversations to only public agencies and nonprofits.

What is Net Metering?

Net metering is an incentive program for energy customers with solar panels. When a consumer’s panels produce more energy than they use, that energy is transferred to the grid. This energy is then credited to their account, so they don’t pay as much for electricity that month.

This is the basic idea, but the specifics are different for each state. According to Eversource, Connecticut’s net metering works like this:

When you generate electricity, that electricity is subtracted from the total amount of energy you used that month. If by the end of the month you generated more electricity than you used, that extra energy is “banked.” At the end of the year, you can be paid for that banked electricity through a credit to your electricity account.

The Battle for Transparency

Net metering was almost a thing of the past for Connecticut. A 2018 law had threatened to remove the program, but by May 2019, lawmakers had reversed the decision. The current net metering rules are in effect until 2021.

Opposition groups to net metering have argued that this program places an undue burden on energy consumers that don’t have solar, saying they must pick up the tab for what the solar users don’t pay. To find a fair rate to pay solar users, regulators initiated the “value of solar” study.

But when they also decided that the conversations that would inform the study would be private, solar advocates feared the opposition would unfairly lobby regulators to create a biased report. Regulators originally defended the position, saying that this is not something that would directly change policy.

However, after multiple motions were filed by solar advocates, the regulators took a step back. Now, only public agencies and nonprofits can hold private conversations with regulators.