The Edison Electrical Institute has battled towards photo voltaic net-metering insurance policies for years. However on Thursday the first business group for U.S. investor-owned utilities confirmed that it’s staying impartial on a controversial petition asking federal regulators to declare web metering unlawful.

On June 15, the Federal Power Regulatory Fee will shut feedback on a petition filed by the New Hampshire-based New England Ratepayers Affiliation asking FERC to undertake a authorized argument that will undermine net-metering applications in additional than 41 states. 

The Edison Electrical Institute (EEI), whose members embrace Duke Power, Dominion and American Electrical Energy, will “not be submitting substantive feedback at the moment,” Adam Benshoff, the group’s government director for regulatory affairs, mentioned in an emailed assertion.

The New England Ratepayers Affiliation (NERA) is asking FERC to declare that net-metered photo voltaic falls below its “unique federal jurisdiction” and to cut back the retail charges net-metered photo voltaic is paid to considerably decrease wholesale charges. The petition has been condemned by environmental advocates, photo voltaic business teams, state utility regulators and Democrats in Congress as a legally unsound and economically harmful assault towards states’ authority over their very own vitality insurance policies.

If FERC approves the petition, it “may create chaos on the state stage,” Ari Peskoe, director of the Electrical energy Regulation Initiative at Harvard College, mentioned in a Thursday interview. An approval may open up state applications to challenges from utilities in regulatory proceedings and impartial lawsuits in federal courtroom, Peskoe mentioned. 

EEI’s place of neutrality is critical

Lawmakers and utility watchdog teams have accused NERA of serving the agenda of utilities and industries opposed to wash vitality quite than the ratepayers it claims to symbolize. NERA, which as a tax-exempt 501(c)(four) group isn’t required to reveal its monetary backers, argues that web metering overcompensates photo voltaic homeowners on the expense of different electrical energy prospects. 

EEI and a few of its member utilities have made comparable arguments towards state net-metering applications through the years. In lots of states, utilities have succeeded in lowering compensation from full retail charges, instituting fastened costs or demand costs, and in any other case shifting prices onto photo voltaic prospects.

EEI has not come out in assist of web metering. Benshoff’s assertion notes that the group has “lengthy taken situation with retail web vitality metering as each a regressive and poor public coverage instrument that unfairly shifts electrical energy prices onto essentially the most weak prospects.” 

Nonetheless, within the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the group and its members “are centered on persevering with to offer protected, dependable and reasonably priced service,” and on “insurance policies that may assist drive our nation’s financial restoration after this disaster.”

EEI has filed a movement to intervene within the case, as have many utilities and commerce teams that haven’t but filed feedback supporting or opposing NERA’s petition. It did so “to order our rights to take part when the Fee guidelines on the authorized points at query within the petition,” Benshoff wrote. 

EEI’s impartial stance is nonetheless notable, given the group’s longstanding efforts to cease or roll again state net-metering applications. In 2013, the commerce group wrote a memo stating that distributed photo voltaic may “straight threaten the centralized utility mannequin.”

In 2014 it labored with the American Legislative Change Council (ALEC) to draft mannequin language for state legislators to advertise further costs and decreased funds for net-metered photo voltaic on the grounds of extra pretty distributing prices amongst ratepayers. 

In 2014, ALEC articulated a authorized argument just like the one now being put ahead by NERA, in accordance with Thad Culley, senior regional director for the Vote Photo voltaic advocacy group. Nevertheless it wasn’t taken up by utilities or different net-metering opponents, which as a substitute targeting altering laws in solar-heavy states equivalent to  California, Hawaii, Arizona and Nevada, in addition to these with far fewer net-metered photo voltaic prospects, he mentioned. 

“It’s attention-grabbing that they opposed web metering all this time, however they by no means performed this card that NERA is enjoying,” Culley mentioned. 

No public assist for NERA’s anti-solar petition

As of Thursday, no feedback supporting NERA’s petition had been filed in FERC’s continuing. However the docket is full of feedback opposing its authorized argument that net-metered techniques needs to be topic to federal jurisdiction below the Public Utility Regulatory Insurance policies Act (PURPA). 

9 members of Congress, together with former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) filed a letter final month stating that PURPA’s language “makes clear that Congress meant for net-metering applications to fall below state jurisdiction, not FERC’s.” Granting NERA’s petition “would overturn long-held precedent and provides the federal authorities decision-making energy that has lengthy belonged to the states, together with the authority to set charges, phrases and circumstances for applications.”

The letter highlighted studies from watchdog group Public Citizen indicating that NERA has solely 12 funding members, indicating that it “operates extra like a commerce affiliation, representing the pursuits of a choose variety of business or utility gamers, quite than a grassroots ratepayer group.” 

New Hampshire Rep. Kat McGhee echoed these issues in a FERC submitting, saying that NERA President Marc Brown’s “lobbying efforts align extra with the fossil gas business’s pursuits” than with these of the state’s ratepayers. She additionally famous that NERA “leases dear workplace house in a number of cities, retains high-priced [Washington,] D.C. counsel and has a derivative group known as the Ratepayers Authorized Protection Fund” whose officers embrace two brothers of New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu.

The Nationwide Affiliation of Regulatory Utility Commissioners has not but filed feedback within the FERC continuing, however Mississippi PSC Commissioner and NARUC President Brandon Presley objected to FERC’s June 15 deadline in a Could 5 assertion, saying it might “divert treasured time, consideration and assets to combating NERA’s request in a tightly compressed schedule.” 

FERC declined NARUC’s request to prolong the remark deadline, but it surely has no laborious deadline to decide on NERA’s petition, Harvard’s Peskoe mentioned. “We’ll simply be ready to see what occurs.” 

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