Rooftop solar in West Virginia has come under threat after state governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, signed a controversial bill designed to restrict net metering in the state.
House Bill 2201, which was vetoed late last month but signed last Thursday after a number of changes were made to correct what Tomblin referred to as “technical issues”, sets new rules for net metering that could result in a cap on eligible generation and additional charges for net metering customers.
The crux of the bill was the prohibition of so-called cross-subsidisation, which it defined as “charging costs directly incurred by the electric utility in accommodating a net metering system to electric retail customers who are not customer generators”. The implication is the prohibition of this could result in net meting customers being charged additional grid charges.
Changes to the bill also include the Public Service Commission conducting a general investigation into net metering taking into consideration rules adopted by other states, and the addition of a cap on net metering of 3% of total peak customer demand.
“I appreciate the increasing role solar and wind power will play in our state, and I encourage the Public Service Commission 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,” Tomblin said.
Tomblin’s decision to veto the bill last month was welcomed by the industry with its opponents claiming the bill would open the door to utilities charging existing and future net metering customers to cover grid maintenance costs.
Solar Energy Industries Association chief executive Rhone Resch said at the time that the bill had the potential of “stymying – if not killing – the growth of rooftop solar in West Virginia”.
“It’s neither logical nor fair to rewrite ratemaking rules for one set of customers or one policy initiative, while ignoring similar effects of other rates and policies,” he added.