In the 1930s, Ohio established rural electric cooperatives. At the time, investor-owned utilities refused to service rural areas because it did not make economic sense. The structure of rural electric cooperatives provided a means to get electricity to rural America.
These cooperatives still stand today and are member-owned, like the title “cooperative” would suggest. Each participant in the cooperative is member-owned and allotted one vote towards the board of directors. Rural electric cooperatives are nonprofit entities, unlike more prominent investor-owned utilities.
Because these locally owned, nonprofit entities are much smaller than national energy companies – you might think it would be easier to go solar when plugged into one. But there are a few nuances to be aware of when choosing to go solar if your electric provider is a rural co-op.
Rural Ohio Net Metering Differences
Rural electric co-ops in Ohio are not required to offer net metering like investor-owned utility companies are. Most of them do, however, not all.
Additionally, because rural co-ops are member-owned and not required to follow regulations set out by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), they can set their own net metering rules. For example, excess power you produce and send back to the grid, you are credited at a specific rate. This rate varies from rural co-op to co-op.
Rules and regulations around fixed-rate amounts on your monthly bills vary. And the amount of electricity that you can send back to the grid annually also varies.
Because there isn’t one standard for the 24 rural electric co-ops, solar installers need to be familiar with the local rules, rates, and regulations.
Why It Matters
Why is all of this important to know? If a rural electric co-op services your home and you’re thinking about going solar, you should pay close attention.
Your solar installer must understand your cooperative’s rules and rates to provide an accurate economic analysis of your solar installation project (that goes for investor-owned utilities, too!) We encourage you to ask them:
- When I send electricity back to the grid – what rate will I receive for that production?
- Will there be fixed charges on my monthly electric bill that can’t be paid with my excess generation?
Third Sun Solar works very closely with the Distributed Generation Coordinators employed by each utility, including rural co-ops. That is part of our job as a full turnkey solar installation partner. It’s important to us to stay up to date on the net-metering rules and fixed-rate fee structure (among other points) at Ohio’s 24 rural electric co-ops to provide accurate solar proposals to our customers.
Lastly, if your utility has policies that disincentivize solar production – become an advocate! If you’re part of a co-op- use your vote, attend public meetings, and make your voice heard! Here is one example of one of our customers who had to advocate at the local level to get solar.
If you have any questions about going solar – reach out! We would love to help answer your questions.