More than 450 environmental and energy-justice, faith and labor groups from more than 30 states urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject the New England Ratepayers Association’s petition seeking federal jurisdiction over state solar policies.
An April petition filed by the “ratepayers association” claims that retail net metering should be under FERC jurisdiction and that distributed-solar customers should pay higher utility bills. That would end states’ ability to enforce their own net-metering policies.
These policies are particularly crucial to developing rooftop- and community-solar systems essential to long-term resilience and to addressing historical environmental injustices, especially for black and other communities of color and low-wealth households.
“There’s a long history of the intentional marginalization of black people, communities of color and those on the margins of poverty through disinformation campaigns,” said Chandra Farley, just energy director of Partnership for Southern Equity. “Moves like this by well-funded shadow groups are another shameful attempt to derail the energy justice movement and mechanisms like net-metering that can provide equitable access to the social, economic and environmental benefits of clean energy.”
“It is a shame that during this time of pandemic and uncertainty we find ourselves under assault. With unemployment and economic depression slowly setting down on society, it is egregious to leave people unprotected and without defense,” said Reverend Michael Malcom, executive director of People’s Justice Council. “The emissions from coal-fired power plants cause damage to people and property. It is Black, Brown, Indigenous and poor communities who stand to benefit the most from energy independence. These communities are also the communities that will be harmed the most.”
Shiva Patel, energy justice campaign manager at the Center for Biological Diversity, added: “The climate and economic crises are fundamentally linked. Our energy future must not only be powered by clean and renewable energy but have systems that address racial and economic justice through centering community control, ownership and resilience.”
Granting the petition would jeopardize longstanding policies that support nearly 2.2 million households and 100,000 businesses with solar power across 49 states and five territories.
“Rooftop solar owners aren’t actually power-plant operators, so they are unlikely to be scouring the Federal Register to see if their monthly energy savings are under attack,” said Nathan Phelps, regulatory director at Vote Solar. “If this is approved, families and businesses across the country will be blindsided by this malicious affront on their good faith investments that were based on state policies that have been protected by FERC for the past 20 years.”
The letter notes that the petition from the New England Ratepayers Association raises several false claims regarding the relationship between net metering and families classified as low-wealth or communities of color, according to a press statement. Claims that costs of solar energy are shifted to “those who cannot afford large houses or businesses” are misleading, as most studies have found that the benefits of solar net metering outweigh costs for all ratepayers, the letter says.
SEIA stated in a press release that adopting the policies requested by the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) would be contrary to FERC precedent and inconsistent with the cooperative federalism model established by Congress and enforced by the United States Courts of Appeals. Issuing the declarations sought by NERA would improperly intrude on a state’s sovereign right to administer retail electric service, SEIA wrote.
“Opposition to this petition is pervasive and the legal and jurisdictional problems the petition would create are impossible to overlook,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “It’s hard to fathom why FERC would want to overturn prior decisions and wrest regulatory jurisdiction away from state policymakers. Given the different retail conditions that exist in each region, there may not be a better example of an energy policy that should be overseen at the state and local level.”
News item from the Center for Biological Diversity, SEIA