PSC says Coalfield Development Corp. net-metering setup isn’t legit!

By Oliver Townsend Jun 25, 2024
PSC staff tells PSC that Coalfield Development Corp. net-metering setup isn't net metering, in complaint against APCo.jpegOrginal image from:

When it comes to renewable energy projects, the concept of net metering plays a crucial role in determining how excess energy generated by solar panels is credited. Recently, the Public Service Commission (PSC) staff raised concerns about the net-metering setup at Coalfield Development Corp.’s West Edge Factory warehouse, stating that it does not meet the criteria for net metering as defined by state laws. This complaint against Appalachian Power Co. (APCo) has sparked a debate about the future of net-metering projects in West Virginia.

The Issue at Hand

Coalfield Development Corp., a nonprofit organization focused on revitalizing coal communities through renewable energy projects, installed 120 kilowatts of solar panels on its warehouse roof. They sought to begin net metering service with APCo, but the utility giant refused, leading to a complaint filed by Coalfield Development. The crux of the issue lies in the physical setup of the solar panels and how the energy flow is monitored and credited.

Defining Net Metering

According to the PSC staff’s recommendation, the current setup at Coalfield’s warehouse does not align with the definition of net metering. Net metering typically requires that incoming and outgoing power flow through a single interconnection point to accurately measure the net energy generated by the solar panels. In this case, the separate metering systems for the warehouse and solar panels do not meet this requirement.

The Implications

The staff’s recommendation has broader implications for future net-metering projects in the state. By addressing the technicalities and legal definitions of net metering now, the PSC aims to provide guidance for similar projects in the future. Additionally, the issue of aggregating energy output and using utility infrastructure for free raises concerns about fair practices and cost-sharing among APCo customers.

Looking Ahead

As the debate continues, it is clear that the outcome of this complaint will set a precedent for how net-metering projects are structured and regulated in West Virginia. The focus on clarifying definitions, addressing technical challenges, and ensuring fair compensation for energy generation highlights the complexities of transitioning to renewable energy sources while maintaining a reliable and equitable energy grid.

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