Published on March 25th, 2019 | by Charles W. Thurston0
West Virginia Rethinks Quashing Solar Net Metering
March 25th, 2019 by Charles W. Thurston
West Virginia has called for a time-out in its four-year effort to rewrite solar net metering rules to the detriment of both solar hosts and solar installers, thanks to a massive campaign by Solar United Neighbors that mustered over 1,000 public comments.
Now the West Virginia Public Service Commission will hold a new hearing in Charleston on April 30 to gather more information about net metering for solar and other renewables, under the auspices of the PSC’s 2015 Net Metering Task Force. (Editor’s Note: this article originally stated the event was April 19; apologies for the oversight)
The latest document in the case is the March 13 General Order Number 258.3, which involves “the Matter of Proposed Revisions to Rules Governing Electric Utility Net Metering Arrangements and Interconnections, 150 C.S.R. Series 33.”
The history of the NEM legislation in this coal-country state is a bit convoluted. In 2015, the PSC sought to “stop net metering ‘cross subsidization,’ to mandate new NEM and interconnection study and rules, and to limit NEM to 3% of aggregated load, with 0.5% for residential customers,” according to a summary from DSIRE, the US Department of Energy database for solar regulations, housed at the NC Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University.
Among utilities that have made proposals in the case are Appalachian Power Company, Wheeling Power Company, Monongahela Power Company, and the Potomac Edison Company.
Following the 2015 NEM modification proposals of 2015, the Commission finally closed the proceeding in September 2018, and initiated a rulemaking to propose revisions to the state net metering rules. That rulemaking called for more investigation of the impact of solar.
The original 2015 PSC mandate for the task force was to determine “whether or not non-solar customers are subsidizing solar customers.” Under a March 13 order this year, the Commission decided to reopen a prior comment period “to conduct a public comment hearing on the comments, and reply to comments received, that are related to blank meter sockets, dual meters, and non-standard meters.”
Not to be allowed to reinvent the solar regulation wheel without some fresh input, the PSC is also now being asked by billionaire Governor Jim Justice to “to continue to evaluate the costs and benefits of West Virginia’s net metering policy to balance the potential for new jobs and investment in alternative energy without unfairly burdening current rate-payers.”
The PSC was thorough in seeking broad representation for its task force. Members include: PSC Commission Staff (Legal, Utilities, and Engineering Divisions), Consumer Advocate Division, The Alliance for Solar Choice, Solar Holler, West Virginia Citizens Action Group, West Virginia Environmental Council, WV SUN, West Virginia Energy Users Group, West Virginia University College of Law, Appalachian Power Company and Wheeling Power Company, Monongahela Power Company and The Potomac Edison Company, and Mountain View Solar.
A member of the task force, Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia argued in past PSC hearings that “there is no cross-subsidization and that, conversely, if studied closely, solar customers provide a net benefit to the grid, the utility, and other customers by providing power at times of peak demand,” according to Ben Delman, the Communications Director for the group. “The PSC staff attorneys agreed with the solar advocates that this cross-subsidization is a non-issue,” the group added.
Another member of the task force, installer Mountain View Solar, commented in the September hearing that, “The utilities are not failing because of solar energy system deployment, they are actually benefiting from solar power produced during peak time periods and (this) allows for correction of power factor challenges throughout the grid,” said John Christensen, the Government Relations and Business Development officer for the company.
Beyond the positive current role of solar, Christensen argued for the even more important role of solar+storage on the horizon. “More technology is being introduced concerning renewable storage methods and WV is primed to be a leader in this technology if we allow solar to thrive as it has been,” he said.
According to data as of the fourth quarter of 2018, the Solar Industries Energy Association places West Virginia near the bottom of US state solar rankings. Among statistics:
- Solar Installed (MW): 7.74
- National Ranking: 48th (49th in 2018)
- Enough Solar Installed to Power: 729 homes
- Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 0.01%
- Solar Jobs: 341
- Solar Companies in State: 19 (5 Manufacturers, 10 Installers/Developers, 4 Others)
- Total Solar Investment in State: $28.13 million
- Prices have fallen 47% over the last 5 years
- Number Of Installations: 837