These are solar panels on the Washington state capitol.

Utilities Fail to Legislate Washington State’s Net Metering

By Roy L Hales

Screen shot 2014-03-18 at 3.43.47 PMThe latest attempt to curtail net metering just occurred in Washington state. If HB 2176 had passed, utilities companies would have been able to obtain control of  “leased energy” programs. Only the bill has been returned to committee which, as this session is over, means it is dead.

There is a passage in HB 2176 that would have enabled utility companies to obtain a monopoly, “If an electric utility offers a leased energy program, no other entity may offer leases to the utility’s customers.”

Though the bill has failed, one has to ask who were the principals behind it.  We can get a pretty good idea by following the political contributions back to source.

Investor owned utilities made a total of $400, 588 in campaign contributions during the last election. Most of that came from PacifiCorp ($216,850) and Puget Sound Energy ($123,200). They are  both members of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies.

EEI has been heavily involved in the utilities vs net metering skirmishes throughout the US. They published a booklet that  identified “Distributed energy resources (DER) as (p 4) “the largest near-term threat to the utility model.” (The best known DER is rooftop solar.) EEI was also been active in the attempt to defame the rooftop solar industry thfrough attack ads in both Colorado and Arizona.

The American Legislature Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that Mother Jones called “one of the nation’s most powerful—and least known—corporate lobbies” is believed to be closely allied to EEI. ALEC attempts to work through state lawmakers and framed a  model for legislation to roll back renewable portfolio standards that was subsequently traced to bills in 13 states.

Both PacifiCorp and its parent company, MidAmerican, were members of ALEC up until recently.

PV at sunset in January 2014
PV at sunset in January 2014

Jeffrey Morris, the author of HB 2176, received contributions from PacifiCorp, Puget Sound Energy, BP North America and a number of gas companies.

PacifiCorp and Puget Sound Energy obtain a substantial proportion of their derive energy (79% and 48%, respectively) from natural gas and coal.

The oil and gas sector contributed $489,764 in the last election.

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