Forging Ahead: Attack on Net Metering is Desperate and Unsound
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Solar net metering has been the backbone of the U.S. rooftop solar market for the past twenty years. Disingenuous attempts to repeal net metering are nothing new since the arrangement encourages a more democratic grid instead of energy monopolies, but now an anti-renewable energy nonprofit group, New England Ratepayers Association (NERA), has managed to sink to a new low.
Shamelessly claiming to be a voice of the people, this “ratepayers association,” with annual membership dues of ~$250,000 and ties to utility interests, has made a move to repeal net metering in a time when most states are busy focusing on saving lives. Not only do we find their arguments against net metering to be dishonest, we believe the timing of their tactics is deeply dishonorable.
Currently, net-metering policy is set at the state level. NERA has petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to assert control over all state net-metering programs in an attempt to hinder solar and other renewable generation installations. FERC is a federal regulatory body that answers only to the Federal Executive Branch and has been consistently oriented toward fossil-fuel interests.
Net-metering programs fairly compensate homeowners with solar power for energy they feed back to the grid, and every independent study that’s been conducted has found that solar’s true market value is equal to and in most cases far higher than the compensation solar customers receive as part of net-metering agreements with the utility. Contrary to NERA’s argument that net metering is a subsidy that shifts utility costs unfairly onto non-solar ratepayers, study after study has also shown that solar investments made by individuals also generate lots of value for ALL ratepayers.
While no one is taking this lightly, the legal merits of NERA’s petition are considered very weak by energy law experts. ReVision and others have intervened as part of a national ‘show of force’ to make sure FERC understands that they aren’t going to slip one by under the radar during a pandemic. We don’t think NERA’s greedy ploy is going to work.
However, an important takeaway from this scenario is that a result of numerous abandoned solar projects due to this attempt at repeal is precisely what NERA has in mind. Of course they want to undo years of state-level legislative precedent and progress — but if they can simply scare folks enough to pull out of solar projects, then they win, even if they lose.
As citizens who want to create a cleaner grid and end climate disruption, it is imperative that we remain determined. We lament the current global pandemic, but since the arrival of COVID-19 the demand for fossil fuels has plunged while stalwart renewable energy sources are having their day in the sun. Our energy future is written plainly on the wall, such that even major banks are finally beginning to divest from fossil fuels.
We believe that reason will prevail, and that attacks like this are in fact desperate grabs for fading power once held by monopolistic utilities and their investors. What entities like NERA can’t seem to grasp is that the transition to renewable energy is a train that has already left the station.
We have faced fights like this before and we have won them. So if you are considering going solar or have a project in the works, have confidence that you will be making a tried and true investment toward energy independence, and a better world.