WV Senate approves solar power purchase agreements bill

The West Virginia Senate approved Thursday a bill designed to encourage customers’ retail investment in solar energy by exempting solar power purchase agreements from the jurisdiction of the state Public Service Commission.

In a 33-1 vote, the Senate signed without much discussion an amended version of House Bill 3310, which specifies that solar energy facilities located and designed to meet the electrical needs of the premises of an electricity retail customer are not the same. public service, nor is the output subject to a power purchase agreement with the retail electricity customer.

The bill has been modified by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which now goes before the House of Commons for consensus.

Senator Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha, recalled on the floor of the Senate before the bill was passed on Thursday that he had previously introduced a similar bill and that Senate approval for the legislation was “coming a long way.”

“It’s good to see he eventually crossed the line,” Lindsay said.

Under a power purchase agreement, a developer decides to design, approve, finance and install a solar energy system on the customer’s property at little or no cost.

The customer purchases the electrical output of the system from the solar service provider for a predetermined period at a fixed rate, usually lower than the retail rate of local utilities, and the solar service provider earns tax credits and revenue from electricity sales.

The bill was moved by the Judiciary Committee on Monday after it tabled an amendment to provide that the agreements must be written in 11 point or more type so that no font is too fine.

Rupie Phillips, R-Logan, vice chairman of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee who protested against the possibility that federal subsidies may be associated with the development of solar panels for installation in accordance with approved power purchase agreements during the Judiciary’s deliberations on the bill Monday, the single vote against the bill was cast three days later.

The bill has no tax credit provisions and does not provide any state subsidies – which Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in which the bill came on March 26, stressed on the floor of the House last week and urging him to pass the bill.

Public Service Commission Chair Charlotte Lane told the committee that her agency supports the bill, which was passed by the House of Commons in an 83-16 vote last week.

The bill’s exemption for power purchase agreements from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission would be conditional, with the proviso that the aggregate of power purchase agreements and net metering arrangements for any utility will not exceed a maximum of 3% of aggregate peak customer demand. in the state during the preceding year.

That cap already exists for net metering, which allows customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to sell the electricity they don’t use back into the grid.

Another condition sets on-site generator limits for individual customers so that solar energy facilities only meet the electrical needs of the retail electricity customer’s premises, not exceeding 25 kilowatts for residential customers, 500 kilowatts for commercial customers and 2,000 kilowatts for industrial customers.

HB 3310 did not meet resistance from Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, whose vice president of regulation and finance, John Scalzo, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bill addresses the challenge of shifting fixed costs from one customer class to another as those in power. purchase agreements go back and forth between their paid and unpaid electricity utilities depending on whether their solar panels are producing electricity at a given time.

Harvest Long, regional field director for Solar United Neighbors, a nonprofit dedicated to solar education and advocacy, backed HB 3310 for the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.

@ hdmediallc.com, 304-348-1236 or follow @Mike__Tony on Twitter.