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[Source: The US Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)]

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The looming battle over rooftop solar

Electrical utility companies around the country are working to limit and even roll back homeowner incentives for distributed solar photovoltaic systems.

According to the Energy Information Administration, rooftop solar electricity — the economics of which often depend on government incentives and mandates — accounts for less than a quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s power generation.

And yet, to hear executives tell it, such power sources could ultimately threaten traditional utilities’ ability to maintain the nation’s grid.

In California, the battle is especially important to advocates on each side since the state makes up the nation’s largest solar market.

In California, as intended, net metering has proved a strong draw for customers. From 2010 to 2012, the amount of solar installed each year has increased by 160 percent, almost doubling the amount of electricity that rooftop systems can make, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. With federal tax credits and a rebate program for installation costs under the California Solar Initiative phasing out, determining how much to pay customers has become even more critical.

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Read more: Americans Installed a Record Number of Rooftop Solar Panels in 2012 | Inhabitat

“Net metering right now is the only way for customers to get value for their rooftop solar systems,” said Adam Browning, executive director of the advocacy group Vote Solar.

Mr. Browning and other proponents say that solar customers deserve fair payment not only for the electricity they transmit but for the value that smaller, more dispersed power generators give to utilities. Making more power closer to where it is used, advocates say, can reduce stress on the grid and make it more reliable, as well as save utilities from having to build and maintain more infrastructure and large, centralized generators.

Read the rest of the article in the New York Times.

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