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Front Royal considers renewable fuels program

By Alex Bridges

The town with the lowest electricity rates in the state may give customers a chance to use alternative fuels at home.

Net metering would allow Front Royal electricity customers to use renewable energy generators that feed power back into the town grid, according to information provided to Town Council on Monday.

Director of Energy Resources Joseph Waltz gave a presentation on net metering at council's work session. Council raised other questions and asked that staff bring the item back to a future work session.

A handful of Front Royal utility customers have asked about the option, prompting the department to bring it to council's attention, said Town Manager Steven Burke.

"It would potentially reduce the demand from individuals that made the investment on renewable energy production at their homes," Burke said Tuesday.

Burke explained further that, based on the proposal in Waltz' presentation, customers who invest in renewable generation at their property could benefit from banked credit for power they return to the grid. Banked credit would offset their demand beyond what they generate. The proposal does not provide for any payment to the customer for power returned to the grid, Burke said.

The state requires private electricity providers to offer net metering, Burke said. Municipal providers such as Front Royal can elect to offer net metering. Front Royal customers might have been served by private providers before moving into town, Burke said.

The town has one customer currently waiting for Front Royal to add the code section.

"Since we've had inquiries from some of our customers, we do want to explore it, and I think that's what council directed staff, to continue exploration of potential issues and potential benefits," Burke said.

Staff looked at regulations regarding net metering standards as set by the State Corporation Commission and what other municipalities do with such a program. Currently only Danville has a net metering program.

Staff recommends that council add a section to town code that defines net metering and allows residents to participate.

The proposed code section defines net metering service as providing retail electrical service to a customer operating a renewable fuel generator and measuring the difference over the net metering period, between electricity supplied to the customer from the electric grid and the electricity generated and fed back to the grid by the customer. A renewable fuel generator is defined as a facility with an alternating current capacity of no more than 10 kilowatts for residential customers and 500 kilowatts for non-residential customers. Such a generator uses renewable fuel as its power source and is intended to offset all or part of the customer's energy needs.

Information provided by Danville shows the kinds of renewable fuel sources allowed under its net metering program as well as the requirements and limitations for users. Fuel sources include solar thermal electric, photovoltaics, landfill gas, wind, biomass, hydroelectric, geothermal electric, municipal solid waste, cogeneration, tidal energy and wave energy.

Customers would need to meet certain requirements of interconnection with the town's system before they could begin using the generators.

Council asked for additional information about the program. Waltz told council that a private company sells equipment that combines heating, ventilation and air conditioning with solar panels. Council asked Waltz to provide information about the cost of such equipment and the energy provided by the solar panels. Council also asked for information about what other municipalities may require before a homeowner can install such equipment or participate in net metering, Burke said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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