TUSK: West Virginia Utilities Deceive Senators to Eliminate Rooftop Solar

TUSK rooftop solar

T.U.S.K. (TELL UTILITIES SOLAR won’t be KILLED) issued a statement today regarding legislation being considered in the West Virginia legislature.  TUSK is affiliated with The Alliance for Solar Choice and both groups are fighting the big utility monopolies who are trying to extinguish the independent rooftop solar market in the United States in order to protect their profit margins and monopolistic business model.

We feel it is very important that U.S. residents know that large companies lobby for, and even write legislation to restrict competition in their industries.  This legislation is often passed due to the influence the companies have on the political process.  Distributed solar is seen as a threat to the large utilities and they have been working diligently to impose fees that will deter homeowners and business owners from adopting this clean technology.

This statement highlights the tactics being employed in West Virginia:

American Electric Power (AEP) and FirstEnergy are attempting to eliminate competition from rooftop solar by misleading legislators about the language in House Bill 2201. On Monday, Senators experienced the latest round of deception when FirstEnergy lobbyist Sammy Gray repeatedly misled the Senate Judiciary Committee about what the new bill language would do.

During Monday’s Committee hearing, senators repeatedly asked FirstEnergy lobbyist Sammy Gray to clarify the new bill language because senators wanted to avoid new fees for their constituents.  Gray responded with the following testimony to the Committee: “I don’t think this is really aimed at fees. It’s just to make sure that the solar generators are providing for the equipment that hooks them up.” Gray repeatedly described the costs addressed by HB 2201 in the context of one-time equipment upgrade costs for interconnecting new solar systems. When asked about the bill’s impact on residential customers, Gray stated that “the idea of the language is not to put fees on them” and further clarified that “it is more equipment-based.” 

Although FirstEnergy’s lobbyist repeatedly reassured the Committee that the new language should only pertain to equipment upgrade costs, the new language in HB2201 says absolutely nothing about equipment upgrade costs. Instead, the language is overly broad and will result in customers paying new fees to prop up already excessive utility profits.

Gray’s statements represent the third anti-solar attack this legislative session in Charleston.  First, the utilities’ tried and failed to eliminate the fundamental solar policy of net metering. Then, they failed to eliminate solar leasing, the business model that brings solar to West Virginians of all incomes, by removing the upfront costs.  Now they have resorted to deception.

The deceptive utility language in HB 2201 is a job-killing government handout being pushed by monopolies who fear free markets and are willing to mislead legislators to protect their guaranteed profits.

West Virginia legislators have seen through the utilities’ first two attacks on rooftop solar.  And now hundreds of West Virginians are joining TUSK in urging Senators to see through this latest, most deceptive attack. 

West Virginia voters will continue to stand strong for choice and competition in the energy market.  They will not be fooled by the utilities’ latest round of lies.

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.