HB2201, vetoed once by Gov. Tomblin, is back on his desk a second time. The bill is a bad bill crafted by the lobbyists of AEP and FE (First Energy) to protect their monopoly and is aimed straight at killing West Virginia’s small, but growing, solar power industry.
Earlier in this year’s legislative session, the West Virginia Legislature repealed the 2009 Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard law but wisely kept the part of the law that authorized the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) to regulate net metering for retail electric customers.
Unfortunately, legislators and power company lobbyists then introduced HB2201. Although the bill started out as a good piece of legislation, it was subsequently amended to include more and more attacks on net metering. The bill includes vague and misleading language about “cross-subsidization” which could allow the Legislature or the PSC to change how solar power producers are paid for our excess electricity. It also puts into law a number of the PSC’s net metering regulations, which is unnecessary.
Net metering allows homeowners, farmers, businesses, and commercial entities to get a one-for-one credit for any solar electricity they produce on their properties. It’s a policy that creates regulatory certainty and ensures that citizens receive a return on their 30-year investments in solar power systems.
On a personal level, net metering is very important because I am wanting to install a system but probably won’t if this bill is passed because of the excess charges against my power that will make it longer or impossible to pay off my system in a reasonable time frame.
I’m not alone in supporting solar. Since 2009, more than 600 residential and small business customers in West Virginia have invested millions of dollars in new electricity generation with the understanding that net metering would be there to help us pay off our investments in West Virginia’s energy future.
We made this investment with the expectation of regulatory certainty. The meddling and manipulation of HB2201 means the bill now casts a cloud of regulatory uncertainty over business investment and innovation in West Virginia.
Solar installers in West Virginia are already seeing current orders being canceled or postponed as customers fear for the future of their investments. Large installed projects, such as those as American Public University in Jefferson County or the Morgantown Transit Authority, are now looking at much longer payoff periods on their investments of taxpayer funds. Most disturbing of all, Yeager Airport’s planned project to invest $15 million to $20 million in the largest solar power array in the state may not happen.
The solar industry includes residential electric customers, installation companies and large institutions. HB2201 has already cost our state jobs and new business.
Gov. Tomblin simply cannot allow AEP and FirstEnergy, through the West Virginia Legislature, to dictate the direction of West Virginia’s energy future. He needs to veto HB2201 a second time to show that West Virginia means business when it comes to innovation and investment by West Virginians, for West Virginians.