Residents and advocacy groups will rally in Charleston this Saturday to protect net-metering for solar customers.
Two of West Virginia’s major utilities, Mon Power and Potomac Edison, are petitioning the state’s Public Service Commission to reduce the credit that solar panel owners get for producing power.
The Commission holds a virtual hearing for public comments on the issue on Monday, Jan. 22.
Courtney MacDonald – coalition coordinator with the group West Virginians for Energy Freedom – said she’s concerned the virtual format is a barrier for people who lack reliable internet access, or who aren’t familiar with technology.
“And, considering those that don’t know how to navigate the ‘ins and outs’ of joining a virtual meeting,” said MacDonald, “we just don’t see this as a sufficient means to provide a platform for those that will be impacted to express their concerns.”
Currently, the net-metering system is used to charge customers for the difference between the energy they use and the energy generated by solar panels that’s fed back into the grid.
Owners can accumulate credits used to lower their monthly bills. The utilities argue net metering doesn’t account for grid maintenance and other infrastructure costs associated with providing reliable electricity.
Data from the Energy Information Administration show more than 90% of West Virginia’s power came from coal-fired plants in 2021, far more than any other state.
Meanwhile, electric bills continue to rise. MacDonald said last month, regulators greenlighted rate hikes for Appalachian Power, Wheeling Power and Moutaineer Gas customers.
“We’re living in a monopoly state in terms of energy,” said MacDonald. “Solar has been sort of this bright light, where folks actually had an opportunity to choose the type of energy that they want, and to benefit and get some money back.”
More information on the rally is online at ‘energyfreedomwv.org.’ MacDonald added that free transportation will be offered by charter bus from Huntington, Morgantown, and Shepherdstown.