SEIA calls on FERC to dismiss the petition to end net metering

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The Solar Energy Industries Association has filed a protest with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), regarding a petition asking FERC to end net metering. The petition was filed by a new entity, the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA), with undisclosed members.

SEIA’s filing argues that “issuing the declarations requested by Petitioner would be contrary to the Administrative Procedures Act, an unwarranted departure from Commission precedent, inconsistent with Congressional intent, and an unjustified intrusion into a State’s sovereign authority.” SEIA concludes that FERC “should exercise its discretion to dismiss the Petition.”

Solar United Neighbors, Vote Solar and 16 other groups filed with FERC a legal case against the petition that includes policy arguments in favor of net metering.

SEIA makes three major arguments to dismiss the petition:

  • “Petitioners seek to disrupt and overturn states’ rights over retail billing and crediting programs
  • Federal law does not preempt state net metering programs
  • The authority to establish and administer net metering programs lies with individual states.”

The other filing, from 18 solar, renewable energy, and environmental groups, also called on FERC to reject the petition, “or, in the alternative, deny the Petition on its merits.”

That filing makes the policy case for net metering—presenting evidence of distributed solar’s role in deferring grid investments; noting that net metered customers “often reduce their own loads and system loads during the cost-causing peak hours;” and citing a national laboratory study showing that net metering has small rate impacts, and may reduce retail rates.

As for the “duck curve,” raised as an issue by NERA, the groups’ filing says that issue is “a matter of state resource planning and load management,” and notes that states may include price signals in retail rate design, as with the Massachusetts Clean Peak Energy Standard, and New York’s Value of Distributed Energy Resources program.

On the issue of equity, the groups’ filing states that “the deployment of distributed solar to lower-wealth families can and must be improved,” and adds that net metering is “the most effective mechanism” leading to increased solar deployments, “and therefore lower costs” that will make solar more appealing to low-wealth families.

The filing also argues that net metered solar provides value beyond the wholesale energy market price—both capacity value, “by avoiding otherwise required generation, transmission and distribution capacity,” and ancillary services. The groups included as an appendix to their filing a Rocky Mountain Institute report on the value of distributed solar.

“The value of the costs avoided by distributed generation can approach or exceed the retail rate,” the groups say, before returning to the legal issue: “resource planning and retail rate design” are “appropriately left to the states.”

SEIA’s filing and that of the 18 public interest organizations are available in the FERC docket library, under docket number EL20-42-000.