I've been working with a Dakota Rural Action committee to promote small-scale renewable energy. We've held a couple public education events and spread the word about DRA members putting up their own renewable energy systems.
But now we've got legislation to promote renewable energy. Rep. Paula Hawks (D-9/Hartford) put House Bill 1207 in the hopper yesterday. HB 1207 is our net metering proposal.
Net metering is a simple concept. Your electric meter on the back of your house spins one way to measure the electricity flowing from the utility grid into your house. If you put up a wind turbine and on some windy day generate more power than your house uses, your meter could spin backwards to measure the net surplus of electricity flowing back to the grid. Given "net metering," you'd pay for the electricity you used, but your electric company would pay you back for the surplus electricity you produced for your neighbors to use.
Net metering is a fairness issue. If you produce something valuable, you should get a fair price for it. Energy is the most valuable commodity we have. Net metering allows us to give a fair price to homeowners, farmers, and ranchers who install small renewable energy systems that produce surplus power. Yet South Dakota is one of only four states that don't require power companies to extend this fairness to their forward-thinking customers.
Net metering won't make solar panel-users rich, but it will help them reach the break-even point on small-scale energy systems sooner. That will encourage more people to invest in on-site energy systems. More renewable energy, generated by more individuals, is exactly the kind of clean and distributed power that will make individuals and communities around South Dakota more energy self-sufficient.
House Bill 1207 supports fairness and local self-sufficiency. It gets South Dakota on the same page as the rest of the nation in promoting renewable energy. I look forward to HB 1207 getting a hearing before committee so we can tell more people about the virtues of net metering.