Utility companies pushing back against net metering policies

Solar power has become very popular across the United States, particularly within the last year – experts estimate that a new rooftop solar power system was installed every four minutes over the course of 2013. Because of the rapid growth of this relatively new industry, utility companies are pushing back on what they perceive as unfair advantages solar users are getting.

The debate is mostly centered on the process of net metering, in which individuals who power their home receive credits from utility companies when they generate more solar energy than they need to use. These credits come from previously established financial incentives that were originally put in place to get people to invest in a new solar power system. Net metering policies are currently in place in 43 states, though the specific terms of the deals vary.

Net metering's main issue stems from the solar credits being set at the local retail price of electricity. Utility companies believe this is far too high, and results in customers using solar energy getting excessive credits. They want the policies changed so the credits are purchased at a wholesale rate, which is substantially lower than retail.

But there are some experts who believe that utility companies are only starting this battle over solar energy because it poses a threat to their long-term existence. Though older sources of energy still generate almost $400 billion in annual sales, solar energy is cutting into their bottom line, and will most likely continue to do so in the future.

"If you have an individual putting solar panels on the roof, it's easy to suggest that a utility is making less money," Franc Del Fosse, an energy industry lawyer, told CNBC.

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