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Comment Period Extended on PUC Proposed Alternative Energy Regulations

On February 20, 2014, the Public Utility Commission adopted a Proposed Rulemaking Order at Docket No. L-2014-2404361, proposing revisions to the Commission’s existing Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards regulations pertaining to the net metering, interconnection and portfolio standards provisions, with the Proposed Rulemaking Order published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on July 5, 2014 at 44 Pa.B. 4179.

The state Public Utility Commission is considering a new regulation that would cap the amount of energy that could be produced and sold back to the power grid by a private alternative energy system.

Though the new rule would most directly affect solar array systems, it also applies to other energy systems, including low-impact hydro power and biomass facilities, said PUC spokeswoman Robin Tilley. The regulation is being done to update practices with the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act of 2004.

“These proposed rules essentially would make net metering regulations consistent across the commonwealth,” Tilley said. “(It) basically codifies regulations that are already in place.”

While news services have picked up on the proposed limits to net metering of solar generation, the rulemaking also impacts the development of distributed generation on the farm, particularly for net metering of anaerobic or methane biodigesters.  The Commission noted that there is a potential of 50-60 digesters being developed on Pennsylvania dairy farms in the foreseeable future, but that if proposed metering aggregation restrictions remain in place, it’s unlikely that those digesters will be developed.

On August 1, at the request of Agriculture Secretary George Greig, to better assess the impact of proposed changes on dairy farms, the PUC agreed to extend the comment period for the proposed rulemaking for an additional 30 days through September 3, 2014.

The amount of energy an alternative system can produce is being capped at 110 percent of the previous year, according to the proposal. This limit ends up helping other consumers on the power grid who do not use alternative energy systems, Tilley said. The utility is required to pay for the electricity coming from the alternative system, meaning that cost would be passed on, she said.

Based on comments filed so far with the PUC available on the agency’s website, alternative energy companies are not in favor of the new regulations and some question their need.