There’s a serious threat to Net Metering—Urgent Action by Solar Advocates Needed!

Update July 16:
We just found out that FERC has dismissed the New England Ratepayers Association motion to attack net metering on the federal level. This is a major victory for solar rights. …
– Aaron Sutch, Program Director, Solar United Neighbors of Virginia

safe_imageA 501(c)(4) group called the New England Ratepayers Association petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to change the regulation of net metering compensation from the states to the federal government. If FERC approves, the result would upset the long-established system of state Commissions to regulate retail rates and net metering programs. Such a change could jeopardize existing and new solar customers.

The deadline to weigh in at FERC is June 15.

Solar United Neighbors, Vote Solar, and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) are urging those who value solar to let Virginia state officials and FERC know why FERC should not approve the petition.

You can do this in one of two ways:

  1. Access the Vote Solar/Solar United Neighbors (VS/SUN) grassroots advocacy website: If you have solar or a solar business, or if you consider net metering an important way to enable solar growth and reduced reliance on carbon fuels, urge your Governor to direct state agencies to intervene at FERC to protect state’s rights. The site offers draft letters for solar owners and businesses. The letters sent to Governors will be compiled and sent to FERC with a cover letter from VS/SUN addressing states’ rights and energy choice.

Additionally, the Sierra Club is collecting “signatures” here to: “Tell FERC to reject this ill-conceived attempt to take away your state’s right to set net metering policy and give consumers clean energy choices.”

  1. Contact your Governor, State Agencies, and FERC directly to express your views. Below are links for VA officials and for FERC.

Below are some points you may find useful as you develop your message(s).

Time for commenting is short. We urge you to speak up in defense of states’ rights and in favor of net metering compensation.

– Joy Loving for the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley

Contact Virginia Officials urging Virginia to intervene in FERC Docket EL20-42 and to oppose this attack on our state’s ability to set energy policy for its own residents. If our state agencies have already intervened, thank them for taking action.

Contact FERC to ask it to disapprove the petition docketed as EL20-42:
Search FERC’s docket (enter EL20-42 into the search box) to review comments and interventions already filed:

Possible Points you may find useful as you develop your message(s).

Tell your story.

  • Why/when you chose solar.
  • Details of your investment and your actual and expected return.
  • Role/value of net metering in solar decision and effect on your return.
  • Whether/why your solar system is grid-tied or not.
  • Your solar advocacy actions and opportunities.

Reasons for/benefits of going solar.

  • Reduce carbon footprint.
  • Improve personal resilience.
  • Exercise energy freedom of choice.
  • Care for environment.
  • Improve Energy Security.
  • Reduce Electricity costs.
  • Reduce Peak Demand and otherwise contribute to grid reliability and resilience.

Why regulation of net metering compensation should be by states and not federal.

  • One size doesn’t fit all.
  • Circumstances, conditions, and other factors vary greatly by states.
  • Existing approaches represent years of experimentation in 49 states with alternative models and methods, as well as focused oversight by state regulatory and legislative bodies.
  • Net metering is a retail transaction between solar producer and electricity provider, not a wholesale one.
  • Constant and frequent improvements in technology necessitate a nimble response relevant to effects on each state’s economy, market conditions, laws/regulations, and other changing conditions.
  • Value of solar must be determined in each state’s market based on its utility model(s) and existing law/regulation, and a national standard would be inequitable and inaccurate.
  • FERC not in a position to perform that kind of analysis to achieve equity among all states and all stakeholders.

Effects of federal takeover of net metering compensation.

  • There are 2.2 million families and 100,000 businesses who have invested tens of billions of their own dollars in solar energy.
  • Petition is by a group favoring fossil fuels, asking for a federal takeover of citizen solar rights.
  • FERC’s approval would hand over control of local energy policy to the federal government.
  • FERC has supported fossil fuels and their producers during its entire existence and is largely funded by them.
  • Should FERC accede, VA’s newly passed Clean Economy Act and the goals established in Governor Northam’s Executive Order 43 would be seriously jeopardized.
  • The right of energy choice that Virginians have under VA law/regulation would be extinguished.
  • There’s no rational basis for federalizing decisions that should rest with individuals and their states.
  • For almost forty years, states have appropriately had jurisdiction over solar rights. They have approached their stewardship in varying ways, some more successful and equitable than others. The election process and changing circumstances can cause states to revise their approaches. Neither of these remedies would be as easily exercised if FERC decided net metering compensation for every state.
  • The federal government should not impose its will on VA families and businesses that want to take control over their individual and collective energy future.

Circumstances of Petition.

  • It is disturbing and doubtless not accidental that attempts like this–to fast-track this anti-solar and anti-states’ rights petition during a global pandemic–are happening. Rather, the scope and timing are a blatant attempt at major anti renewable energy change to favor the antiquated US electric utility market and the incumbent electricity producers. Particularly now, as homes are increasingly our sanctuaries, local solar has given many greater peace of mind financially, enabling one way to safeguard families against the increasingly unreliable and unpredictable electricity grid.
  • Contrary to the often-expressed utility negative view of solar and net metering, solar owners are not the only ones saving with local solar. Local solar helps everyone save by reducing transmission costs, providing local peak energy resources, bolstering grid resilience, and more.
  • FERC cannot erode state’s right to offer energy choice to families and businesses that choose to invest in solar energy.

You can watch this archived webinar from Solar United Neighbors about how to diffuse the threat from the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA). It was recorded on May 28, 2020.

In May 2020, NERA — a secretive group with ties to monopoly utilities — petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to end net metering and treat solar homeowners as wholesale power generators.

We assembled an expert panel to discuss the implications and what you can do.

* The Energy and Policy Institute will talk about their research on “NERA: the New England Ratepayers Association,” the secretive group that has filed this petition to FERC.

* Vote Solar and Solar United Neighbors will explain the petition, potential implications, and opportunities to join us in fighting this petition with a deadline for actions of June 15th.

Speakers include Glen Brand and Liz Veazey from Solar United Neighbors, Nathan Phelps from Vote Solar, and Dave Anderson with Energy and Policy Institute.

Advanced Energy Economy, “a national association of business leaders who are making the global energy system more secure, clean, and affordable,” recorded this webinar on Net Energy Metering and State Authority: What’s at Stake for Advanced Energy in FERC Petition on June 3, 2020.

Webinar Overview: States have long had the right to design retail billing and rate policies to facilitate the adoption of distributed energy resources, but right now that’s under threat of federal preemption. Net energy metering and similar practices have long been an important tool for states, as well as municipal and cooperative utilities, to empower consumers to take control over their energy supply. A recent petition from a little-known group called the New England Ratepayers Association asks the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to upend the status quo and expand federal regulatory authority over these policies and the customers that participate in them – with ramifications well beyond just net energy metering for rooftop solar. This webinar explained how FERC ruling the wrong way could impact existing and emerging state and municipal and cooperative utility approaches to supporting distributed energy resources in retail markets.

• Ted Thomas, Chairman, Arkansas Public Service Commission
• Hannah Muller, Director of Public Policy, Clearway Energy
• John McCaffrey, Senior Regulatory Counsel, American Public Power Association
• Jeff Dennis, Managing Director and General Counsel, Advanced Energy Economy

From the Southern Environmental Law Center on June 23, 2020:
Southeastern groups join states and regulators in defending solar net metering programs

“Last week, over 50,000 individuals and 600 organizations, states, regulators, and elected officials submitted comments and petitions defending the ability for states to have authority over rooftop solar net metering programs. SELC filed extensive comments on behalf of Southeast public interest organizations, providing a regional perspective and describing how Southeast states and more than 40,000 rooftop solar customers rely on net metering programs each month across the region.”