West Virginia governor approves previously vetoed net metering bill

Solar industry groups had cautioned the legislative proposal — HB 2201 — would jeopardize rooftop solar in West Virginia and encouraged him to veto it.

The bill Gov. Tomblin signed on March 12, however, includes only minor revisions compared to the one he vetoed on Feb. 24. As previously, it requires the Public Service Commission “to prohibit cross-subsidization” through net metering, conduct a general investigation into net metering rules and caps the amount of customer generating capacity eligible for net metering at no more than 3% of total utility peak demand.

In a statement, the governor said: “Today I signed House Bill 2201, which regulates net metering as part of West Virginia’s power generation. I appreciate the increasing role solar and wind power will play in our state, and I encourage the Public Service Commission to continue to evaluate the costs and benefits of West Virginia’s net metering policy to balance the potential for new jobs and investment in alternative energy without unfairly burdening current ratepayers.”

Despite the bill’s essentially unchanged content, solar industry representatives took encouragement from Gov. Tomblin’s words.

“The governor made clear in his public statement that he expects his appointed Commission to consider the benefits of solar," said Bryan Miller, co-chairman for The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC). According to the group, American Electric Power and other utilities lobbied to prevent the commission from considering any benefits of solar.

"In a desperate attempt to become the thought police for West Virginia, AEP aggressively lobbied to prohibit regulators from considering any solar benefits at all. AEP failed in this extreme effort," charged Miller, who is also a vice president at solar company Sunrun.