MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — When the tiny Washington Electric Cooperative announced this past week that it was moving to slow the growth of customers installing solar power systems and putting their extra electricity on the power grid, it brought to the fore a battle that had been brewing for years.
The Shumlin administration, lawmakers and Vermont's largest utility have been cheering the arrival of solar energy and "net metering" on Vermont's electrical generation scene, while smaller municipal and cooperative utilities have been pushing back.
Net metering allows owners of solar and other renewable power generators to put their excess power on the utility grid and run their meter backward, reducing their monthly power bills, sometimes to zero.
Some utilities say that leaves other customers picking up fixed costs like power line maintenance. But supporters of net metering say it reduces overall power costs in other ways.
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