The program reflects some utilities' changing relationship with distributed generation, or DG, the name for small-scale energy generators like solar systems and micro wind turbines that produce electricity close to where the power is used.
Many of the nation's 3,200 utilities have resisted distributed generation, partly because they believe the small projects would cut into their profits. Private utilities make their money by investing in infrastructure - mainly massive centralized power plants and high-voltage transmission lines - and then charging customers enough to earn that money back with a guaranteed return. Distributed generation shakes up this century-old model by shifting control of electricity from utilities to smaller developers, communities or individuals, who produce power onsite and rely less on traditional grid infrastructure to keep the lights on. This, in turn, reduces the returns that utilities collect.
In Germany, distributed generation has been the backbone of a national clean energy overhaul that has turned that nation into the world's largest solar market. Nearly half of Germany's renewable power is owned by private individuals or farmers, while in the United States customer-owned generation is still less than 5 percent of the clean energy market.
The Edison Electric Institute, the U.S. utility sector's main trade group, wrote in a recent report that locally produced clean energy is a "disruptive challenge" to utilities that is likely here to stay.
Keep your eye on the DG development: it ain’t gonna go away!