Back in April we wrote about an attempt to eliminate Net Energy Metering - the primary economic benefit for rooftop solar - by way of a misleading petition filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Here's an update (h/t Utility Dive)...
The petition was filed by an entity called the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) and if successful, would potentially affect net metering in the 45 states where it presently exists in one form or another. The FERC regulates interstate electricity markets, and NERA portrayed net metering as a "wholesale sale" of energy, essentially subjecting rooftop solar systems as if they were utility power plants. From NERA's FAQ about the petition:
[N]et metering is having an unfair and harmful impact on ratepayers, especially low-and middle-income families. Given this problem, NERA has chosen to challenge net metering at the body which has the proper jurisdiction over wholesale electricity transactions.
Under FERC rules, the public had until June 15 to comment on the petition, and NERA found support from some usual suspects including the Heartland Institute (famous for its climate change denialism), the coal company Murray Energy (hilariously ridiculed by John Oliver a few years ago), the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform (say what?), and Citizens Against Government Waste.
Curiously, although several utility companies - including PG&E - had suggested that they would comment, none of them did.
In opposition was a very long and bipartisan group of people ranging from solar companies (well duh) and solar trade associations, to local state energy regulators. For example, the National Association of Regulatory Utilities Commissioners (which includes the California Public Utilities Commission amongst its members) said in its comments:
The [FERC]… has for nearly 20 years acknowledged states' authority and held that net metering does not involve wholesale sales subject to its jurisdiction... Relying on that settled law, states and utilities have developed and implemented net metering programs, and millions of Americans have made long-term investments in solar panels and other distributed generation for their homes and businesses.
Interestingly, Public Citizen dug up some IRS filings for NERA - which self-describes as "a non-profit organization focused on promoting sound public policy that protects utility customers, both families and businesses, and lowers the cost of regulated services" - that cast doubt on that claim. According to the IRS filings, NERA consists of 15 members (identities not disclosed), ten of whom pay $20,000 in annual dues and five that pay $5,000. Not exactly a grassroots organization!
Watch this space!