The group claiming standing as a ratepayer advocacy group in its try and get federal regulators to override state internet metering regimes has lastly revealed the id of certainly one of its members. However that revelation seems to strengthen claims by its opponents that it’s representing power business pursuits slightly than these of ratepayers.
This week, the New England Ratepayers Affiliation (NERA) filed a solution to the hundreds of feedback opposing its petition asking the Federal Vitality Regulatory Fee (FERC) to rule state internet metering insurance policies unlawful underneath federal legislation.
Whereas the New Hampshire-based 501(c)(four) group isn’t required to reveal its members or monetary backers, its submitting did embody an affidavit from the one member it has publicly acknowledged up to now — Geoffrey Mitchell, a buyer of Connecticut utility Unitil. Mitchell wrote that he’s “straight and adversely affected the place internet metering is used to shift prices from prospects who’re internet metering individuals to prospects who should not.”
Mitchell could also be a ratepayer, however he is additionally president and founding father of Brant Vitality, a New Hampshire-based consultancy advising utility purchasers together with Eversource, Liberty Utilities and others which have lobbied in opposition to internet metering in New Hampshire. In accordance with his on-line biography, Mitchell can be a founder and former government of pure gasoline firms Merrimack Vitality Firm and First Reserve Fuel Firm.
Public Citizen, a watchdog group accusing NERA of misrepresenting its standing as a ratepayer advocate to masks its backing by power business pursuits, identified in a FERC submitting that Mitchell is a board member of the Ratepayers Authorized Protection Fund, a company based by NERA President Marc Brown and James and Michael Sununu, brothers of New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a internet metering opponent whose 2018 marketing campaign was funded by Eversource.
In accordance with Public Citizen, this “undermines NERA’s credibility as a company representing ratepayer pursuits,” and supplies additional proof that NERA is “actively concealing and deceptive the Fee in regards to the monetary pursuits that NERA claims to symbolize.” The group has requested FERC to dismiss NERA’s petition on the grounds that it violates FERC guidelines that petitioners should disclose their curiosity within the rules they’re searching for to enact.
“It is a entrance group,” Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen’s power program director, mentioned in a Thursday interview. “The truth that the one member they’re prepared to determine is a man who’s a president of a consulting agency that works with electrical utilities? This entire factor is a sham.”
Brown didn’t instantly reply to cellphone calls and emails from Greentech Media requesting remark. In feedback to Utility Dive, Brown mentioned that Mitchell is “primarily retired.”
Slocum challenged that assertion, noting that Mitchell is listed as president of Brant Group in a March 2020 submitting with the New Hampshire Division of State, and that his firm filed a declare final yr searching for $49,560 in consulting companies funds from then-bankrupt utility Pacific Fuel & Electrical.
“Geoffrey Mitchell is much less a ratepayer, and extra aligned with the financial curiosity of the utility business,” he mentioned.
Authorized and coverage arguments across the NEM petition
FERC has seen a whole bunch of organizations and authorities companies and hundreds of people file feedback opposing NERA’s petition filed in Could. A bunch led by advocacy organizations Vote Photo voltaic and Photo voltaic United Neighbors logged opposition to the proposal from 30 state public utility commissions and 35 members of Congress, in addition to 31 attorneys basic from states starting from Oklahoma to California.
9 members of Congress, together with former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), filed a letter final month asking FERC to reject NERA’s petition, saying it “would overturn long-held precedent and provides the federal authorities decision-making energy that has lengthy belonged to the states.”
NERA’s reply states that opposing arguments are “outdoors the scope of this continuing and lack advantage,” and reiterated its declare that the online metering regulation now in place in 41 states “distort wholesale market outcomes and funding choices to the detriment of extra environment friendly sources, together with extra environment friendly renewable sources.”
NERA’s argument that net-metered techniques needs to be topic to federal jurisdiction underneath the Public Utility Regulatory Insurance policies Act (PURPA) or the Federal Energy Act (FPA) relies on the argument that FERC has sole jurisdiction over power gross sales from rooftop photo voltaic and different distributed era on the shopper facet of the meter. Related authorized arguments have did not persuade FERC previously to change its coverage of permitting states to debate and amend their very own internet metering insurance policies.
If NERA’s petition is authorized by FERC, it might open up state applications to challenges from utilities in regulatory proceedings and impartial lawsuits in federal courtroom, in response to Ari Peskoe, director of the Electrical energy Legislation Initiative at Harvard College.
NERA has acquired a handful of feedback supporting its petition from teams such because the Taxpayers Safety Alliance and The Heartland Institute. A remark from Michael Boyd, president of a bunch known as Californians for Renewable Vitality and the proprietor of a solar-battery system interconnected to the PG&E grid, argued that the power needs to be eligible for normal contracts outdoors of California’s internet metering rules.
The Edison Electrical Institute (EEI), the chief commerce group for U.S. investor-owned utilities, declined to take a place on NERA’s petition final month, though its assertion famous that it has “lengthy taken challenge with retail internet power metering as each a regressive and poor public coverage device that unfairly shifts electrical energy prices onto probably the most weak prospects.”