January 18, 2015

West Virginia’s Legislature Considering Repeal of Law Requiring Use of Alternative and Renewable Energy

Members of both the House and Senate Energy Committees took up a bill last Thursday repealing a law that’s commonly been referred to as West Virginia’s cap and trade law.

The Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act of 2009 requires electric utilities in the state to produce 25 percent of their electricity with alternative and renewable energy sources by 2025, meeting benchmarks of ten percent in 2015 and 15 percent in 2020.

When the act was first introduced six years ago, the West Virginia Coal Association worked with lawmakers to craft it and supported the law. Now, the group is asking lawmakers to repeal it, saying with the current climate and the pressures from the Environmental Protection Agency, forcing utilities to use a specific energy source will hurt the already declining coal industry.

“We’re fine with it in place, however, repeal doesn’t harm us either,” Sammy Gray of First Energy, an electric provider in northern West Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle, told members of the House committee.

“We can meet the standard now through 2025 without additional cost,” he added.

Gray told the Senate Energy Committee earlier in the day First Energy would prefer repeal of the law so the free market could dictate what energy sources the company relies on.

It was in that Senate Committee meeting that an amendment was made to the bill.

Senator Herb Snyder of Jefferson County comes from a region of the state in which businesses and private citizens alike are investing in solar panels to create energy.

A provision in the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act requires electric companies to give consumers who create energy with alternative sources a credit for the extra energy they produce and feed into the national grid. The practice is called net metering.

Repealing the entire act would also repeal that provision, Snyder said, hurting individuals and companies who invested in renewable energy technology because of the provision.

His amendment was adopted by the Senate Committee.

Members of the House also discussed the provision in depth, but ultimately decided the Public Service Commission regulation that’s currently in place would continue those credits and that the actually state code was not required to continue them.

The House version of the bill was taken up by its Judiciary Committee Friday.

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