WV Politics: Where the Crazy Meets the Uninformed and Nothing Happens

In an article last Saturday in the Martinsburg Journal, we have a clear picture of why WV’s energy policies are so misguided.  The story is titled “Lawrence refutes claims in a recent ad” (note: The Journal’s editors appear to have the same allergy to capital letters that the editors of the Daily Mail have contracted.)

It seems that GOPAC WV, a Republican PAC, is running ads in the district of Del. Tiffany Lawrence claiming that Lawrence supports the Alternative and Renewable Portfolio Standard law passed by the WV Legislature in 2009.  Republican candidates have been screaming about the ARPS throughout the 2012 election, trying desperately to claim that this is “WV’s cap and trade law” and that WV Democrats are part of an Obama administration conspiracy to destroy the coal industry.  This is the crazy.

The Journal story goes on to note that Del. Lawrence has responded to the crazy this way:

According to Lawrence, HB 103 diversifies that state’s energy portfolio and does not say anything about sending jobs out of the state or country.

“(The bill) allowed for expansion of alternative forms of energy including solar, wind, other alternative fuels,” Lawrence said.

There has been much confusion over what HB 103 does throughout the course of the bill’s life. In an Oct. 17 report, the State Journal stated the bill does not seem to harm the coal industry and that members of the industry, including the West Virginia Coal Association, helped write the bill.

“There is no limit placed on coal production,” the report said. “The limit is placed on coal burned for electricity that is consumed in West Virginia.”

Lawrence confirmed the participation of leaders in the coal industry and described the bill as “collaborative.”

Here is a link to Taylor Kuykendall’s “report” over at Grounded to which the Journal article refers.  Kuykendall clearly states that the ARPS was sponsored and supported by WV’s coal industry.

The problem with this so-called debate is that Del. Lawrence is wrong when she says “(The bill) allowed for expansion of alternative forms of energy including solar, wind, other alternative fuels.”  In fact, as Pam Kasey, also at Grounded, reported last December, the ARPS does nothing to “expand” anything about how WV’s Ohio-based monopolies produce electricity.  The ARPS law was deliberately written so that WV’s power companies don’t have to do anything different for 15 years to meet the so-called “standard” set in the law.

So Del. Lawrence has not kept up with the facts surrounding the impacts of the ARPS.  She is uniformed about the law.

Those of us who live in the real world understand the real impacts of the ARPS in WV – to suppress the development of local, small scale solar and wind power while claiming to “expand” it.  And don’t forget who was in charge of crafting the ARPS charade and pushing it through the Legislature: then Gov. Manchin and then Senate President Tomblin.  The same people the GOP candidates Maloney and Raese are claiming joined the President to kill the coal industry.  Like I said, crazy.

Because WV’s power companies do not need to buy any credits to meet the ARPS standards, there will be no buyers for ARPS credits in WV for at least 15 years, if ever.  The amount of credits needed by power companies and the amount of coal and natural gas that can be burned to generate the needed credits was carefully calibrated in the law, by the power companies and coal industry, to create just this situation.

Here are the facts:

  • WV is the only state in the US that allows fossil fuels to generate credits for any has such an extreme coal-friendly “portfolio standard” system.  There will not be a market for real renewable power credits in WV for the foreseeable future.
  • WV’s solar power producers can sell Solar Renewable Energy Credits in DC, OH and PA because those states have systems that require power companies to buy credits generated by solar power.  Unfortunately, as the solar power industries have grown rapidly in these states, they are less and less interested in allowing out of state power producers into their SREC markets.  WV producers are being shut out of these markets or face very low prices for their credits.
  • In creating regulations concerning who can qualify for renewable energy credits, the WV PSC created contradictory rules for WV solar power producers that are not in compliance with regulations governing regional solar credit markets established by PJM Interconnection.  While PJM’s rules allow small solar producers to record their power production from the meters on their systems’ inverters, WV PSC rules require that WV solar producers install unneeded “revenue quality” meters at extra expense to measure their production.  In a current case at the PSC, the Commission’s own staff has twice filed reports recommending that the Commission grant certification to WV solar power producers and change WV regulations to conform with PJM rules.  The WV PSC has failed to act on either of these recommendations.

Everyone who wants to talk about WV’s phony ARPS needs to look at the case records for the solar power certification case at the PSC.  My wife and I, along with a number of other WV solar power producers, filed with the PSC one year ago for certification of our systems to sell ARPS credits in WV.  We knew there is currently no market for our credits, but we have seen what has happened in other states, and we want to be certified in case any credits become available.

All of the applicants for WV certification are currently certified in OH, PA and DC and are actively selling our SREC credits in those states.  We are all certified to sell credits in PJM through PJM’s GATS certification for renewable power producers.  In all those states and PJM, our certification applications were processed quickly and easily within two months from a single application form.  Not so in WV.  The PSC required us to open our own cases by filing petitions and then required an extraordinary amount of information concerning engineering specifications of our systems and the laws and regulations in other states.  Throughout the case, the unpaid applicants have provided information to the PSC’s paid staff that is readily available and could have been used to write WV regulations properly two or three years ago.

Take a look at the filings in my own case to see all of the hoops that the WV PSC has required before we can get certified.  And we are still not certified after a year.  So why is the PSC failing to certify solar producers?  There is no crazy conspiracy to suppress solar power in WV, and the PSC is not part of it.

What has happened is that the WV Legislature created the ARPS in such a way that solar power doesn’t matter in WV.  Why should the PSC take the trouble to find out what PJM and other states are doing, when the Legislature set up a situation so that solar generated credits will never be sold in WV anyway?  And why would WV solar producers want WV certification when it will never do them any good?  See how well the WV ARPS works?  It just makes the whole discussion of solar power in WV go away, because it is completely irrelevant.

So no, GOPAC WV and Del. Lawrence, solar power is certainly not costing WV rate payers anything extra and is certainly not “expanding” solar power in WV.  And the WV ARPS is doing exactly what it was designed to do – nothing.

3 thoughts on “WV Politics: Where the Crazy Meets the Uninformed and Nothing Happens

  1. So if all this is true, why are the Republicans crying out against the WV ARPS? because they need an issue, that’s why, and this fake one ties in with national Republican propaganda (the War on Coal and all that).
    I do have one bone to pick with you, though–you said no other state has a Portfolio Standards law that allows burning fossil fuels for credit–but PA does. I was living in Morgantown and working for what’s now called the Center for Coalfield Justice, in Washington PA, when that law went through. It was supported by about all the environmental groups in the state until the last week, when it was gutted and several groups jumped off and opposed it, because it was written so the utilities could get most of their credits through things like gob-burning plants (gob is low-grade waste coal, heaped in enormous, polluting piles in that region). It’s probably not as bad as WV’s law–I believe it does have a solar carve-out–but after it passed I saw it being trumpeted to officials from other states as a model bill that allows you to have a RPS without harming your coal companies. You say WV’s ARPS PREVENTS the expansion of renewables, and I can’t see that–but I think the purpose was to fend off any proposals for a real RPS by passing a fake one. Just as Tomblin’s “tweaked” bill regulating Marcellus shale drilling is being used to prevent a bill with real protections and restrictions from being passed.

    • I stand corrected on the coal issue. Here is a link to PJM’s comparison of standards by state. http://www.pjm-eis.com/~/media/pjm-eis/documents/rps-comparison.ashx

      I have corrected the post to reflect this. Ohio’s standard allows for credits from “clean coal” and coal gasification. WV’s ARPS is still the only state which allows coal burning power plants to continue doing what they have always done and still generate credits. Under the WV law, AEP’s John Amos plant qualifies to generate credits because of its boiler technology. I don’t think any other state’s laws would allow that. It would be safe to say that WV’s ARPS is still the most extreme coal friendly standard in the US.

      I disagree with your claim that WV’s law does not suppress solar power. WV law provides for massive subsidies to our fossil fuel extraction and burning industries. Just look at the securitization bill that passed the 2012 Legislature. Massive rate payer financing of coal that was burned four years ago. And that law mobilizes the PSC to act as AEP’s WV collection agent.

      So failing to provide incentives for solar power development in WV, especially given that such incentives are common in surrounding states, is clearly designed to put WV solar development at a disadvantage. Then couple that with an ARPS that was deliberately designed to hide this fact, and convince West Virginians that nothing else needed to be done because the state was already promoting renewable power, indicates a clear commitment to preventing any progress in the future. This was clearly Manchin’s and Tomblin’s intention when they developed the ARPS. The Legislature could simply have done nothing, and the result would have been the same. Then, we could say they were not taking any action to suppress solar power. The fact that they passed a law designed to both do nothing, and hide the fact that they were doing nothing, indicates that there was much more going on with the ARPS and that cutting off the budding solar power business in WV was an important priority.

      So being able to claim that they were not suppressing solar power was exactly Manchin’s and Tomblin’s object with ARPS. As I said in my post, their plan was subtle, but effective.

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