Energy Committee approves net metering fee regulation bill

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The Senate Energy and Utilities Committee approved a bill Tuesday that allows electric cooperatives an exemption from regulation by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for fixed charges for net metering, provided the cooperative adopts its own rules for net metering that includes a dispute resolution process. The bill also exempts municipal utilities from a requirement that the PUC resolve net metering disputes.

Supporters of the bill side with cooperatives who believe the PUC should not have a role in regulating cooperatives as they do with investor-owned Utilities. They point out that cooperatives are run by member-owners who are both ratepayers and investors, with a long and successful history of self-regulation. Opponents disagree, arguing that the bill removes an important protection for customers who participate in net metering. They argue the PUC provides a neutral expert venue for hearing complaints by cooperative members about what may be needlessly high net metering fees that can run as much as $83 a month. The bill was approved 6-4, with Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no. The bill will be heard next in the Finance Committee.  (SF 141)