West Virginians Standing Up to Protect Net Metering

Back in 2009, the WV Legislature passed the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard law.  For years, Republicans have falsely claimed that the law was a “cap and trade” assault on the coal industry, and Democrats mistakenly claimed that the law helped renewable power.  Neither of these claims is true.

Republicans and Coal Democrats jumped on the ARPS law right out of the chute at the Legislature this year, introducing repeal bills in both houses, Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 2001.  Both bills are identical.  They repeal all sections of the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard law.

As we know, the law did nothing to help development of new renewable power in WV.  FirstEnergy lobbyist Sammy Gray admitted this yesterday to the Charleston Gazette’s reporter Phil Kabler:

While proponents of the bill criticized the law for putting, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, termed it, “onerous requirements on power companies,” FirstEnergy lobbyist Sammy Gray said the power company already can meet the alternative energy requirements through the use of waste coal, supercritical pulverized coal and hydroelectric power.

Asked if other power companies operating in the state also can comply with the act, Gray told House members, “My understanding is they can meet these standards, also, but I can only speak for FirstEnergy.”

So, repeal of the ARPS law matters little to WV’s solar power industry, EXCEPT that it includes the only legislative authorization of WV’s net metering rules. Those net metering rules require power companies to buy surplus power from WV homeowners and businesses at the same rates that these customers pay for power.  Hundreds of homeowners and small business people have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in solar power equipment because of this commitment from the Legislature in 2009.  These installations have created hundreds of new jobs for West Virginians.  Repeal of the net metering provisions of the 2009 would undercut all this investment.

Take a look at the first page of the WV PSC’s current net metering rules.  See that “1.2. Authority. — W. Va. Code§ 24-2F-1 et seq.”?  That is the ARPS law.  If the ARPS law is repealed, the legislative authority for the PSC’s net metering rules, among the best in the US, is removed.

Fortunately, citizens across WV mobilized to let legislators know about this problem.  We had only a few hours in which to do it, because, in a surprise move, newly appointed Republican committee chairs in both Senate Energy, Industry and Mining and House Energy put the repeal bills before their committees for a vote.  Members of these committees reported receiving over 90 emails and phone calls in the span of three hours before their committees met.

There was extensive discussion of the net metering problem in the Senate EIM committee.  Democratic Sen. Herb Snyder and Republican Senator Mitch Carmichael, both spoke in favor of amending the repeal bill to keep net metering authorization in the WV Code, no matter what happened with the rest of the ARPS law.  As Phil Kabler reports:

Senate Energy Committee members delayed advancing their version of the bill Thursday, to allow a rewrite that will repeal most of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Act — but retain the net metering provisions.

This is a major victory for everyone in West Virginia who wants to reduce electric rates and break the monopoly hold that Ohio-based AEP and FirstEnergy have over our electrical system.

The House repeal bill was voted out of House Energy unchanged and moves to the House Judiciary Committee.  The House needs to address the net metering issue, and so far, the Republican leadership has failed in their “leadership” on the net metering issue.

If you support solar power development in WV, you can let legislators know.  WV Sun has set up two easy Web-based messages that you can send to our legislators.  You can send them a general message stating your support for solar power in WV at this link.  You can also send targeted emails to members of the Senate EIM committee and the House Judiciary committee (the next stop for HB2001) at this link.

Don’t wait.  Send these messages now.  To be effective, communicating with legislators has to be done at exactly the right time.  Now is that time.

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