450 environmental, energy justice groups urge FERC to reject threat to net metering

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More than 450 environmental and energy-justice, faith and labor groups urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today to reject the New England Ratepayers Association’s petition seeking federal jurisdiction over state solar policies.

An April petition filed by the secretive “ratepayers association” claims that retail net metering should be under FERC jurisdiction and that distributed-solar customers should pay higher utility bills. That would end states’ ability to enforce their own net-metering policies.

These policies are particularly crucial to developing rooftop- and community-solar systems essential to long-term resilience and to addressing historical environmental injustices, especially for Black and other communities of color and low-wealth households.

“There’s a long history of the intentional marginalization of Black people, communities of color and those on the margins of poverty through disinformation campaigns,” said Chandra Farley, just energy director of Partnership for Southern Equity. “Moves like this by well-funded shadow groups are another shameful attempt to derail the energy justice movement and mechanisms like net-metering that can provide equitable access to the social, economic and environmental benefits of clean energy.”

“It is a shame that during this time of pandemic and uncertainty we find ourselves under assault. With unemployment and economic depression slowly setting down on society, it is egregious to leave people unprotected and without defense,” said Reverend Michael Malcom, executive director of People’s Justice Council. “The emissions from coal-fired power plants cause damage to people and property. It is Black, Brown, Indigenous and poor communities who stand to benefit the most from energy independence. These communities are also the communities that will be harmed the most.”

“The climate and economic crises are fundamentally linked,” said Shiva Patel, an energy justice campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our energy future must not only be powered by clean and renewable energy but have systems that address racial and economic justice through centering community control, ownership and resilience.”

Granting the petition would jeopardize longstanding policies that support nearly 2.2 million households and 100,000 businesses with solar power across 49 states and five territories.

“Rooftop solar owners aren’t actually power-plant operators, so they are unlikely to be scouring the Federal Register to see if their monthly energy savings are under attack,” said Nathan Phelps, regulatory director at Vote Solar. “If this is approved, families and businesses across the country will be blindsided by this malicious affront on their good faith investments that were based on state policies that have been protected by FERC for the past 20 years.”

Today’s letter notes that the petition from the New England Ratepayers Association raises several false claims regarding the relationship between net metering and families classified as low-wealth or communities of color. Claims that costs of solar energy are shifted to “those who cannot afford large houses or businesses” are misleading, as most studies have found that the benefits of solar net metering outweigh costs for all ratepayers, the letter says.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.