Solar Fight Heats Up as U.S. Set to Rule on Rooftop Mandates

An effort to overrule state policies for rooftop solar has drawn criticism from investors, lawmakers and attorneys general across the U.S. ahead of a ruling expected Thursday from the top U.S. energy regulator.

More than 600 comments, protests and motions to intervene were filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is set to decide whether it will assume power over regulating solar incentives that are currently handled by local authorities.

Many argue that shifting oversight for so-called net metering away from local regulators would hinder the expansion of rooftop solar power and threaten the policies. The debate also marks one of the first times that the state subsides have been challenged on a national level.

“The petition threatens to dismantle net metering policies across the country, endangering the existence and growth of solar development nationwide,” wrote a group of 450 environmental groups including Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.

Under net metering, utilities compensate owners of rooftop panels for the excess power they feed onto the grid. Municipalities and businesses that operate solar facilities also benefit. The incentive is widely seen as helping propel rooftop solar into the mainstream.

New England Ratepayers Association, a New Hampshire-based group that has refused to disclose its members, asked the Republican-led agency to oversee net metering at a federal level. FERC declined to comment on a pending matter.

In addition to the 450 environmental groups, the move is also opposed by 15 U.S. senators; a consortium of solar investors led by Ares EIF Management LLC; the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the Florida counties of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach; and the New York attorney general.

The “petition constitutes a direct assault on state regulators’ ability to do their jobs,” wrote a group of 14 members of Congress, including Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, and Representative Paul Tonko, a Democrat from New York.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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