A funny thing happened in the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee meeting this afternoon. The Committee took up and passed HB2201 without any changes, but a lot more happened during the discussion of the bill. AEP’s obstruction of solar advocates’ efforts to correct a serious error in the bill collapsed in disgrace.
HB2201 is very odd. Designed by the House Judiciary Committee as a way to add the definition of net metering back into the new article in the WV Code that remains after the repeal of the ARPS
joke law, the Committee contradicted both the existing definition of net metering in the current statute and the Senate’s Senate Bill 1 that also added a definition of net metering to its net metering statute.
Sub-sectiion (11) of §24-2F-3 (current statute) reads as follows:
(11) “Net metering” means measuring the difference between electricity supplied by an electric utility and electricity generated from an alternative or renewable energy resource facility owned or operated by an electric retail customer when any portion of the electricity generated from the alternative or renewable energy resource facility is used to offset part or all of the electric retail customer’s requirements for electricity. [emphasis added]
(a) “Net metering” means measuring the difference between electricity supplied by an electric utility and electricity generated from a facility owned and operated by an electric retail customer when any portion of the electricity generated from the facility is used to offset part or all of the electric retail customer’s requirements for electricity. Provided, That this section shall not preclude an educational or religious organization customer-generator, that either owns or operates its own facility, from utilizing a net metering system in this state. [emphasis added]
What’s the difference? HB2201 requires that a retail electricity customer is only eligible for net metering if he/she both owns and operates a solar power system. Current law allows a person or business that does not actually own the solar panels to still get the benefit of those panels if electricity passes into their neighbors’ homes from the system on their roof.
One of the fastest growing segments of solar power growth in the US is the leasing of solar panels owned by installers or businesses to home owners or other businesses. Many renters who live in houses with solar panels also get the benefit of net metered electricity in other states. Businesses that install solar panels may have reasons for having their panels owned by one company and their building owned by another company, and there is no need for government interference in their freedom to do this..
The House’s HB2201 change in the current “or” language is a radical departure from current policy and would prevent all of these options for making solar investment more affordable for West Virginians.
Now comes the strange part.
AEP’s head lobbyist has been telling legislators for the past week that HB2201’s “and” language is already in WV’s net metering law. That is clearly wrong.
Today, in the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee’s meeting, that same lobbyist asserted the same wrong claim to the committee members. He was publicly corrected in the meeting by the Committee’s attorney, who informed him that, in fact, the language in the current law clearly stated that a retail customer could either own or operate a solar power system and still have that system eligible for net metering.
Let’s hope AEP’s lobbying team will be honorable enough to admit to Senators that they were wrong. Let’s hope that they will support correcting HB2201 to allow both owning and operating net metered PV systems when the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up HB2201 this week or next.