California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday, as part of a multistate coalition, filed a protest against a petition by the New England Ratepayers Association requesting that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) assert federal jurisdiction over net metering programs. If granted, this petition would throw into uncertainty longstanding state-run programs in at least forty states, which encourage installation of solar panels and other types of on-site renewable energy generation in homes and retail establishments. Under these state programs, individuals who generate enough energy through their renewable generation systems to meet their own electricity needs receive a financial credit on their electricity bills for any surplus energy fed back through the electric grid to their local utility company.
“Every month, millions of Americans receive a credit on their electricity bill as a direct result of their decision to invest in solar and other renewable energy technologies on their property,” said Attorney General Becerra. “These homeowners and small businesses made this investment with the reasonable expectation that their participation in longstanding state-run solar incentive programs would not only benefit the environment, but also save them money down the line. As the country finds itself in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis, we urge FERC to reject this misguided attempt to upend state net metering programs.”
On April 14, 2020, the New England Ratepayers Association filed a petition with FERC asserting that key portions of state-run net metering programs, such as the one overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission, are preempted by federal law. If FERC grants the petition, millions of customers who made substantial investments in rooftop solar and other renewable energy systems will see their electricity bills rise significantly. This will also discourage new investments in renewable energy by utility customers, putting thousands of solar industry jobs at risk and undermining states’ clean energy goals. California has been a leader in investing in the installation of solar in homes and retail establishments, through programs such as the “million solar roofs” initiative, as part of its efforts to promote clean energy in the state.
For nearly two decades, FERC has consistently found that net metering is not a “sale of electric energy at wholesale” and therefore does not fall under federal jurisdiction. States have long relied on this precedent in developing their solar incentive programs and establishing frameworks for meeting clean energy goals. In today’s filing, the coalition urges FERC to deny the New England Ratepayers Association’s petition, arguing that an assertion of federal jurisdiction would run contrary to FERC and court precedent, as well as the Federal Power Act, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act.
Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, as well as the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, in filing the protest.
Additionally, Attorney General Becerra joins a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in sending a letter to FERC expressing opposition to the petition.