Net Metering Bills take on new meaning this week

By John Christensen, Mountain View Solar lobbyist (with help from friends of Solar)

We had some good news as well as some bad news this week on the net metering protection front.   First the good news. HB 2001, the companion bill to SB 1 (the first two bills introduced in the 2015 WV Legislative session), passed out of both bodies, clean and untouched except for the addition of the section on net metering as found in the AREPS law (that was 99% repealed). HB 2001 was signed by the governor to be one of the first completed pieces of legislation. We were hoping that would be the end of the story. Not so fast. There are still two net metering (as amended) bills out there to watch (SB 1 and HB 2201), and negotiate and repair or kill.

The problems stem from word manipulation and changing definitions in the two remaining bills (SB1 and HB 2201) by the power company lobbyists to make solar leasing opportunities all but disappear for WV residents. In WV we have regulated monopolies for electrical service, but now we see where the regulators (the PSC and the legislature) are being given a few bad amendments by the power companies. This means that the regulated (power companies) are writing the language in the laws that govern them. The legislators act like they don’t know much about it, notwithstanding the fact that they receive hundreds of emails from our WV-Sun google-group list asking them to keep net metering (NM) definitions as is, with no amendments.

Suddenly the amended version of NM, HB 2201, was on the agenda for Senate Judiciary on Thursday afternoon. The solar community was successful in getting the bill pulled off the agenda for Thursday and Friday, and we had a meeting with many stakeholders including the PSC general counsel and the Judiciary Chair and staff lawyers, as well as AEP and First Energy lobbyists. We were able to discuss our differences with the Chair and committee lawyers and have the PSC counsel intercede as a referee. The committee chairman, Sen. Charles Trump (R-Morgan) did his best to try to get the parties to agree but in the end we left not knowing what the power companies would be “comfortable with”. Why should this even matter to legislators? I thought the purpose of state law was to benefit the citizens and small businesses that make up the majority of the population, not the regulated monopolies that provide the services to the majority.

The bill is on the agenda for Monday at 3 p.m. in Senate Judiciary so I guess we will find out soon enough.

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