FERC rejects NERA petition for FERC control of solar net metering 2020-07-16

FERC did the right thing! All four FERC Commissioners voted to dismiss a petition to have FERC take over from states decisions on rates utilities pay for rooftop solar electricity.

It’s true they dismissed it on procedural grounds without much addressing the substance of the matter, and that may lead to assorted District Court decisions, as one of the concurring Commissioners noted. But dismissing it for any reason is much better than granting the petition.

It just goes to show even the most regulatorily-captured agency can be right occasionally.

[Photo: Carl Howe, 335W SunPower solar panels in Massachusetts, 28 February 2014]
Photo: Carl Howe, 335W SunPower solar panels in Massachusetts, 28 February 2014

FERC Dismissal of NERA Petition

FERC Accession Number: 20200716-3099, Order Dismissing Petition for Declaratory Order re New England Ratepayers Association under EL20-42. Commissioner McNamee is concurring with a separate statement attached. Commissioner Danly is concurring with a separate statement attached.; see PDF.

WWALS Motion to Intervene and to Deny

Among the almost 50,000 comments on FERC Docket No. EL20-42-000, seven organizations filed to intervene with “motions to dismiss or deny.” WWALS was one of those seven, with FERC Accession Number: 20200615-5329, Motion to Intervene, Comments and Motion to Deny by WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. under EL20-42; see PDF.

We never published the WWALS motion comment, so here it is.

June 15, 2020

To: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

      Via e-filing

Re: Motion to Intervene and Comment of Opposition by WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. on Petition for Declaratory Order of New England Ratepayers Association under EL20-42

Dear Secretary Davis and FERC Commissioners,

Pursuant to the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure (18 CFR §385.214 and §385.214), WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) as Intervenor hereby moves to intervene as a party to this proceeding, namely Petition for Declaratory Order of New England Ratepayers Association under EL20-42, as published in the Federal Register April 22, 2020. In support hereof, Intervenor shows as follows:

  1. Contact Information and Service of Filings

Intervenor requests that the Commission include the following representatives on the official service list to receive service of all filings and communications made in this proceeding:

John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper,

WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., wwalswatershed@gmail.com

  1. Basis for Intervening:
  1. WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS), established 2012, is a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, with active members and supporters in Georgia and Florida. WWALS remains deeply concerned about the destructive activities of pipeline companies such as Sabal Trail as they affect rivers and the Floridan Aquifer in south Georgia and north Florida. WWALS advocates solar power instead, consonant with the WWALS Mission, which is that WWALS advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, Santa Fe, and Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities.
  2. Since 2013, WWALS has actively requested the Georgia Public Service Commission (GA-PSC) to require Georgia Power to buy more solar power, in letters https://wwals.net/?p=679, https://wwals.net/?p=49473, https://wwals.net/?p=50610  and in-person testimony. http://www.l-a-k-e.org/blog/?p=4241 Along with such requests by many other organizations and individuals, GA-PSC has at least twice required Georgia Power to buy more solar power. https://wwals.net/?p=49713 
  3. WWALS has long argued and demonstrated using pipeline industry figures that solar power is faster to install, and less expensive than natural gas pipelines, plus it uses no cooling water, emits no pollutants to air or water, and does not require eminent domain. http://www.l-a-k-e.org/blog/?p=9256 WWALS has argued those points directly with Southern Company https://wwals.net/?p=35000 and Georgia Power and with NextEra for Florida, as well as with FERC, especially in the Sabal Trail pipeline FERC docket No. CP15-17.
  4. Many of the members of WWALS, especially in Georgia and Florida, either have rooftop or community solar power, or would benefit greatly from having it, through reduced electricity bills and through not being without power after hurricanes, when natural-gas-pipeline-derived electricity often fails for weeks. https://wwals.net/?p=37159 
  5. The main impediments to wider and faster deployment of solar power is financing, and lack of will by electric providers. Solar reimbursement rates set by utilities in Georgia and Florida are already low, yet they are sufficient to make at least some rooftop and community solar deployment fiscally feasible. Putting FERC in charge risks those reimbursements going even lower, which would make solar deployment even more difficult. That would adversely affect many members of WWALS, who would find solar power more difficult to afford. And lower solar reimbursements would promote polluting pipeline and natural gas and coal power plants, adversely affecting everyone through increased pollution, including greenhouse gases speeding sea level rise and climate change.
  1. Motion to Intervene.

For the reasons given above, WWALS has a substantial interest in this proceeding that cannot be adequately represented by any other party and may be directly affected by FERC decisions herein. WWALS is an interested party within the meaning of 18 CFR §385.214(b)(iii), and its participation in this proceeding is in the public interest.

  1. Motion to Deny.

In addition to all the reasons stated in 2 above, WWALS notes that as far back as 2013, Austin Energy commissioned a study that showed that local solar generation is actually a net benefit to electric utilities, because of elimination of line losses, less wear on lines, and deferred or delayed construction of fossil fuel power plants.[1] Austin Energy consequently raised its solar reimbursements higher than its domestic electric rates. The Public Utilities Commission of Minnesota also approved such a value of solar tariff (VOST).[2] Without flexibility for states and local utilities to set solar reimbursement rates, neither of those VOST implementations would have been possible, to the detriment of local solar generators everywhere.

WHEREFORE, for the above reasons, Intervenor requests that the Commission GRANT its Motion to Intervene.

FURTHER, for the above reasons, Intervenor moves for the Commission to DENY the Petition for Declaratory Order of New England Ratepayers Association under EL20-42.

Done this 15th day of June, 2020.

For the rivers and the aquifer,

John S. Quarterman


[2] A Rising Tension: ‘Value-of-Solar’ Tariff Versus Net Metering: TASC members SolarCity, Sungevity, Sunrun and Verengo are battling to keep net energy metering intact. Herman K. Trabish, gtm, 10 April 2014, https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/A-Rising-Tension-Within-the-Solar-Industry-Value-of-Solar-Versus-NEM


Thanks to Maxine Connor for the heads-up that caused WWALS to file.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!