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Bill Introduced to Prevent Limits on Alternative Energy Reimbursements

The House Consumer Affairs Committee heard from advocates of a bill that would prevent the PUC from implementing caps on reimbursement to farmers, businesses and homeowners who generate electricity from alternative sources during a hearing last week.

The PUC is currently drafting a proposal that would set stricter limits on the size of energy generating systems that qualify for net metering, a practice in which a customer who generates more power by the use of renewable sources than they consume, are paid for their excess energy by a utility company.

Current law limits residential generators to 50 kilowatts and commercial systems to 3-5 megawatts.  There are approximately 8,700 facilities that are participating in net metering in the commonwealth. 

Rep. Zimmerman’s (R-99) HB 1349 would prevent the PUC from setting any kind of cap on energy produced from any form of biologically created methane including manure, garbage and sewage sludge.

During last week’s hearing, PUC Chairman Gladys Brown argued that the language in HB 1349 could be interpreted in such a way as to lift the law’s current limits on net metering, which could cost an additional $87 million a year in subsidies.

Other advocates testifying at the hearing pushed for the bill to widen its scope to include energy generated from solar panels, wind turbines and poultry manure. 

Ann Swanson, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, urged Committee members to think beyond the types of renewable sources outlined in the legislation.  She said that it is “critically important” to also look at systems that would turn manure and poultry litter into energy.

Chairman Godshall (R-53) made a point of asking multiple panelists if they thought the excess energy should be reimbursed at a wholesale or retail rate. 

“Should the owner of one of these digesters… should he pay his share of getting that electricity to the homeowner?” he asked. “That’s the major question that we’re dealing with.”