WV House passes bill to encourage solar power purchase agreements

The West Virginia House of Delegates has approved a bill designed to encourage retail customers to invest in solar power by exempting solar power purchase contracts from the jurisdiction of the state Public Services Commission.

The Chamber voted on Wednesday 83-16 Wednesday in favor of the law 3310, which states that installations using solar energy located and designed exclusively to meet the electrical needs of the premises of a retail electricity consumer do not constitute a public service, and production is not subject to an electricity purchase contract with a retail consumer of electricity.

As part of the energy purchase agreement, the developer arranges the design, licensing, financing and installation of the solar energy system on the customer’s property at little or no cost.

The customer buys the system’s electricity from the solar service provider for a predetermined period at a fixed rate, usually less than the retail price of the local utility company, while the solar service provider obtains tax credits and income from selling the electricity.

The bill contains no tax break provisions and does not provide for any state subsidies – something that Moore Capito’s delegate R-Kanawha, chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, where the bill was drafted last week, stressed in the House on Wednesday, calling for the bill to pass.

“The bill to you is truly the epitome of the free market,” said Capito. “This law doesn’t allow more solar power in West Virginia. This law does not provide for any state subsidies for solar or renewable energy, nor does it prioritize or prioritize solar or renewable energy ”.

House Bill 3310 notes that open-market financing may give more customers the option to install solar-powered devices on their property, and this would stabilize long-term energy costs to “make the country more attractive to industry and commercial investment.”

The exemption under the Act of Power Purchase Agreements from the jurisdiction of the state Public Services Commission would be conditional, with the first condition being that the sum of all energy purchase agreements and net metering arrangements for any utility company does not exceed 3% of the total peak customer demand. in the state during the previous year.

This limit already exists for net metering, which allows customers who generate their own electricity from solar energy to sell electricity that they do not consume back to the grid.

The second condition of the Act sets limits for on-site generators for individual customers, so that solar installations only meet the electricity demand of the retail customer’s premises, not exceeding 25 kilowatts for private customers, 500 kilowatts for commercial customers and 2,000 kilowatts for industrial customers.

The Act also requires customers who conclude contracts to purchase energy or lease solar installations to notify their company first, and it extends the powers of the Public Services Commission to establish and manage interconnectors for energy purchase contracts. The Commission would not have the power to set energy rates for such an on-site generator arrangement with the customer.

Charlotte Lane, Commissioner for Public Service, approved the bill at a House Judiciary Committee meeting last week, which resulted in the bill being moved to a full House. West Virginia Coal Association president Chris Hamilton condemned this, predicting it would result in coal job losses as consumers would “choose the best” electrical loads.

John Scalzo, vice president of Regulation and Finance for Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, testified that customers supplying some of their own third-party power supply may result in a “slightly less” utility reimbursement than the rest of their customer base needs to be supported.

The bill is now sent to the Senate.

Contact Mike Tony at mtony@hdmediallc.com, 304-348-1236 or follow @Mike__Tony on Twitter.