Net-metering policies, the laws and policies that ensure homeowners have the right to sell power produced by their solar arrays back to their utility for a fair price or reimbursement level, are continuing to come under fire from the utility industry and its allies. In established markets and in new markets, like Utah and Washington state. But over the past two weeks they’ve been handed some round defeats.
At the heart of the matter the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which bills itself as an organization that promotes limited-government, free markets and state-level federalism. Its board is comprised of conservative state House and Senate members from across the U.S. and members of its private enterprise council include executives from Exxon Mobile, Koch Companies and Peabody Energy, among other large corporations. In its efforts to get rid of or reduce net-metering policies across the U.S. ALEC is siding with big business interests like publicly traded utilities and with their national trade association Edison Electric Institute (EEI).
In January 2014 ALEC’s member approved model legislation aimed at instating fees on home and businesses with solar arrays or distributed generation (DG) systems that feed energy back into the grid. Among other things ALEC encourages state lawmakers to: “Update net metering policies to require that everyone who uses the grid helps pay to maintain it and to keep it operating reliably at all times.” In addition, it advocated that states: “Create a fixed grid charge or other rate mechanisms that recover grid costs from DG systems to ensure that costs are transparent to the customer.”
In previous years the organization had focussed on dismantling renewable energy portfolios. Those efforts have largely been defeated but the solar industry is concerned that such challenges could impact their ability to do business particularly for homeowners and smaller businesses. For instance, net-metering laws were changed in Arizona last year after an intense, nationally observed battle between solar installers and the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service.
Conservative state legislators have introduced legislation inspired by ALEC this legislative session but luckily they’re seeing defeats in some states already like Washington and Utah. “In state after state, overwhelming public support for rooftop solar continues to trump multi-million dollar attacks from utilities, EEI, and ALEC,” said Bryan Miller, President of the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) and VP of Public Policy for Sunrun.
Last Friday (March 14) two bills inspired by ALEC, H.B. 2176 and H.B. 1301, were put to bed with the end of the state’s legislative session, TASC said. They “would have given utilities monopolistic control over the rooftop solar market by blocking companies other than the utilities from offering solar leasing programs.”
In Utah S.B. 208, a Public Utilities Modification Bill, included ALEC inspired language as well. However, TASC said solar advocates made sure the bill included no changes to net metering in the state. Instead the bill, when signed into law, will allow the state to look at the value of distributed solar.
“The ALEC-inspired attempts to stop rooftop solar in such early-stage markets demonstrate that this has nothing to do with utility concern for ratepayers and everything to do with a monopoly trying to stifle competition,” said John Stanton, co-Chair of TASC and VP of Policy and Electricity Markets for SolarCity.
These states, however, are just two of many where such legislation was introduced. The Energy & Policy Institute observed that ALEC-inspired legislation is still being debated in Kentucky and North Carolina, for instance.Tweet