10/5/2020 update: Ameren rejected the Commission’s request to continue providing full net-metering credits to residential solar customers until an audit is completed, writing in a notice on October 2, “Ameren Illinois has determined that it cannot undertake what the Commission urges, as to do so would require Ameren Illinois to disregard its tariffs and so violate the Act.”
10/16/2020 update: Ameren Illinois filed a special permission tariff with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to help new rooftop solar customers maintain full compensation for the excess power they produce, should the Commission determine a key net metering calculation should be changed.
On Thursday, the Illinois Commerce Commission granted in part an Emergency Motion by solar advocacy organizations concerning distributed generation rebates and net-metering credits in Ameren Illinois’ service territory. In its Order, the Commission urged Ameren to continue to provide full net-metering credits to residential solar customers until an audit is completed to protect consumers and avoid disruptions to the solar market.
To encourage the use of renewable energy sources, the Illinois legislature created net metering credits to compensate solar customers for any excess electricity they generate and send back to the grid, reducing the customer’s monthly electric bills. Under state law, an electric utility may discontinue the delivery service portion of net-metering credits for new net metering customers if the load of the electricity provider’s net metering customers equals 5% of the total peak demand supplied by that electricity provider during the previous year. While Ameren asserted that they may meet the 5% threshold imminently under the calculation methodology contained in their current tariffs, the Commission’s Order directed ICC Staff to perform an audit of Ameren’s threshold calculation as a protective measure for customers.
Moreover, the Commission directed staff to prepare an order initiating an investigation to determine whether the threshold calculations contained in Ameren’s Rider Net Metering Tariff should be amended so as to comply with how the threshold calculation should be calculated pursuant to the Illinois Public Utilities Act, and further require Ameren to explain why implementation of its current tariff should not be stayed. Under the Commission’s Order, Ameren was also directed to maintain records of customers potentially affected by recalculation of the 5% threshold.
From the bench, ICC Chairman Carrie K. Zalewski expressed concerns that by allowing Ameren to end net metering before the Commission approved the replacement tariff as required by statute, would be a violation of the legislature’s intent to transition smoothly from retail net metering to a successor distributed generation rebate.
“Ending net metering without the rebate in place could have a chilling effect on solar sales at a time when the state is working to further decarbonize the grid and increase renewables. This could also lead to layoffs in the solar industry at a time when the state is still recovering from an economic downturn,” said Zalewski.
On September 28, 2020, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Natural Resource Defense Council, Vote Solar, Solar Energy Industries Association, Coalition for Community Solar Access and the Illinois Solar Energy Association filed the Emergency Motion requesting the Commission direct Ameren to temporarily preserve retail net metering, which it intends to terminate October 1, 2020, by issuing a temporary stay and other Interim Relief. In its Order, the Commission denied the request for a temporary stay, citing procedural and due process grounds for its decision. The Commission’s ruling comes one week after the Commission issued an Interim Order on September 23, 2020, requiring an investigation as to the proper methodology for calculating the statutory threshold.
To read the Commission’s Order or learn more about Docket # 20-0389, please click www.icc.illinois.gov.or visit
Ameren maintains that its action will not end net metering. A spokesperson sent the following statement to Solar Power World:
“We understand the concerns being voiced by the solar developers but there have been some wild misstatements asserting that Ameren Illinois would be ending net metering by following the law. Net metering is not ending.
“We have followed the letter of the law and have been nothing but consistent and transparent in our interpretation of the net-metering act since 2017. Our net-metering policies are clear in our tariffs and have been for years. We have also consistently and publicly reported progress toward the 5% threshold. We also strongly agree with the underlying policy in the law — as more rooftop solar and net-metering comes into our service territory, this trend has the effect of shifting cost responsibility to customers who do not have solar panels. Most Ameren Illinois customers don’t know that they are paying subsidies to benefit other customers who can afford to install their own rooftop solar.
“We believe the current tariff is the fair and equitable way to credit customers for the excess renewable energy they produce. We have been advocating for a balanced approach that does not place unnecessary costs on the economically disadvantaged.
- In August of 2017, Ameren Illinois filed a tariff with the ICC defining a methodology for how to calculate solar penetration in Downstate Illinois. The ICC approved the methodology in September of 2017 and the 5% threshold was reached on October 1, 2020.
- The approximately 3,000 existing net-metering customers will continue to receive credits based on both the power supply and delivery rates. New customers installing solar facilities will receive a credit on the supply portion of their bill, and when they generate enough to supply their own electricity, they will not pay kWh-based delivery charges.”
News item from the Illinois Commerce Commission. Updated with Ameren’s statement on Oct. 9.