This is Part Three of a series on attacks on net metering in 2014. Read Part One: North Carolina's Duke Energy Plans Attack on Solar and Part Two: Utility Interests Push for Protectionism in the State of Washington.
Last week, the Kansas House Energy Committee again considered taking up an anti-solar net metering bill (HB 2458) pushed by two major utilities Westar Energy and Kansas City Power & Light. The House committee passed an amended HB2458 that would make substantive, negative changes to solar net metering if passed through the state legislature. As amended, HB 2458 would allow utilities to pay solar customers generating excess electricity less than the retail rate of electricity. Instead, excess credits for electricity generation would be calculated at the end of each month’s billing cycle, and the utilities would pay less for customer-generated electricity. Utilities would then turn around and sell the electricity to customer-generators neighbors at the retail rate - generating revenue for the utility from the customer’s solar investment.
Anti-Solar Bill Passes ALEC-Chaired Committee
The bill was tabled the week before last in what Chairman Dennis Hedke called a “surprise vote” of 9-7. Hedke, a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), said the bill would “come come off the table” at some point - and yesterday it did. ALEC’s utility members and the utility trade association, Edison Electric Institute (EEI), have been pushing to gut net metering policies through a new model resolution passed during their December meeting in Washington, D.C. At least five additional members of the Kansas House Energy Committee are known ALEC legislative members: Representatives Steve Alford, Randy Garber, Charles Macheers, Scott Schwab, and Joe Siewert.
As it was introduced, HB 2458 would have ended net metering, and the amended bill would also gut the program in favor of a pro-utility industry policy. Testifying before the committee, the utility industry said that a lower level of compensation would be fair, according to Andy Marso at the Topeka Capital-Journal. The utility’s aim is to credit customers generating excess solar electricity at a rate of 150% of each utility’s avoided cost, which would very likely be far less than the retail rate of electricity. The utility would then be able to sell the excess solar electricity to the customer-generator’s neighbor for a much higher retail rate, benefiting the utility’s balance sheet with bonus revenue.
This is Part Two of a series on attacks on net metering in 2014. Read Part One: North Carolina's Duke Energy Plans Attack on Solar and Part Three: Utility-Backed Anti-Solar Bill On the Move in Kansas Statehouse.
In Washington, a legislative effort to undermine solar net metering is already underway. Utility interests are pushing a protectionist, anti-free market bill that would safeguard the monopolistic control of electricity generation by a handful of utilities.
The bill in question, Washington HB 2176 states, “If an electric utility offers a leased energy program, no other entity may offer leases to the utility’s customers.” Solar leases account for approximately 60% of residential systems in top solar states like California and Arizona, because they allow homeowners to install solar panels with little or no upfront capital cost. It’s a business model that’s proliferated throughout the solar industry and has driven industry growth—with industry leaders like SolarCity, Sungevity, and Sunrun all offering lease programs. HB 2176 would give utilities monopoly control of the distributed solar market.
This is Part One of a series on attacks on net metering in 2014. Read Part Two: Utility Interests Push for Protectionism in the State of Washington and Part Three: Utility-Backed Anti-Solar Bill On the Move in Kansas Statehouse.
In a sign it will seek to maintain its monopolistic control of North Carolina’s energy generation, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good criticized solar net metering in a meeting with local reporters on January 22. According to the Charlotte News & Observer’s John Murawski, the utility will push for “reducing how much North Carolina households are paid for generating electricity from solar panels.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) recently released a model resolution calling for the weakening of solar net metering policies that threaten the traditional utility industry business model. ALEC is one front group that the utility industry is using to push for changes to net metering policies—a valuable ally for the utilities to lobby state legislators from across the country. Duke Energy is a member of ALEC.
Last week, Dominion Virginia Power, the largest utility in Virginia, successfully blocked a solar net-metering bill from moving forward in the Special Subcommittee on Energy in the House of Delegates Commerce & Labor Committee. Days earlier, Dominion had attempted to hijack a bill meant to boost the installation of solar on multi-family housing communities. According to Virginia Sierra Club’s Ivy Main, Dominion lobbied for “substitute language that would give the utility the exclusive right to build and own community systems and sell the power to the customers” thereby forcing multi-family residents to purchase solar only from Dominion. The utility company was unsuccessful, but still managed to stop the bill in its tracks.
Colorado Urges Governor Hickenlooper Not to Swear In Controversial Glenn Vaad to Utility Commission - Threat to State’s Clean Energy Economy Cited
Despite widespread concerns over conflicts of interest, Gov. Hickenlooper has not yet cancelled the swearing in of Glenn Vaad to the Colorado Public Utility Commission on Wednesday, January 8 at 9:00 AM.
Controversy flared after Vaad’s “deep and substantive ties” to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were made public last week by Friends of the Colorado PUC. ALEC is a corporate lobbying group whose membership includes Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries and Xcel Energy’s trade association, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).
Hundreds of concerned Coloradans have signed an online petition calling on Gov. Hickenlooper to reject Vaad’s appointment to the PUC fearing Vaad’s nomination will harm Colorado’s ability to add more renewable energy to the grid and damage the state’s cleantech sector which employs 22,000. In 2013, ALEC lobbied lawmakers in 15 states to introduce legislation repealing Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. Petition comments urge the Governor to protect the future of renewable energy in Colorado.
"There is a clear conflict of interest – Glenn Vaad was a high-ranking representative of ALEC, which is coordinating a national attack on clean energy," explains Gabe Elsner, Executive Director for the Energy and Policy Institute, “ALEC’s utility and fossil fuel members are now launching a new wave of attacks on clean energy policies like solar net metering. There's a real threat that Mr. Vaad will serve ALEC’s special interest members instead of Colorado families.”
Furthermore, an October 2012 report entitled "Buying Influence" by Common Cause indicates that Vaad received ALEC "scholarships" in 2006, 2007 alnd 2008 from the corporate lobbying group ALEC including scholarship money from Xcel Energy. These corporate funded gifts paid for Rep. Vaad's travel to ALEC’s conferences, where lobbyists draft model legislation in partnership with state legislators. Whistle blower documents provided to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) expose that former Rep. Glenn Vaad quietly received an ALEC “State Legislator of the Year” Award in 2012.