Two weeks after vetoing a virtually identical bill, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia signed H.B. 2201. The legislation revamps net metering rules in West Virginia, restricting what the legislation describes as “cross-subsidization” that would have allowed owners of solar installations to sell clean energy back to the grid. The bill also calls for studies of net metering rules in other states, and in the long run caps the solar power generated from net metering at no more than 3% of the total state’s peak demand—and only 0.5% from residential solar customers.
Governor’s Tomblin approval of the bill is a huge setback for the state’s nascent solar industry, which was already on the ropes after the legislature and governor repealed West Virginia’s Alternative Renewable Energy Portfolio Act. The state capital, Charleston, had been the focus of aggressive lobbying by anti-clean energy companies including American Electric Power, which even lied about H.B. 2201’s financial impacts to a state senate committee.
The passage of the bill is a setback for the solar industry, but as always, solar advocates are used to taking a step or two back before moving forward again. Organizations such as TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed) have been charging ahead in West Virginia, touting solar’s benefits from reducing expenses for churches to its role in diversifying local economies. Renewable energy proponents at the very least should be encouraged that despite intense pressure, the state has left the door open to considering incentives for solar power in the future.
Governor Tomblin, in a statement released after he signed the bill, acknowledged the fact that solar and wind have a role in the state’s future. “I appreciate the increasing role solar and wind power will play in our state,” said the governor, “(and) the potential for new jobs and investment in alternative energy without unfairly burdening current rate-payers.”
Image Credit: O Palsson