Energy, Environment, WV PSC

APCo, Coalfield Development love/hate PSC staff recommendation in their net-metering dispute

MORGANTOWN – Coalfield Development Corp. and Appalachian Power Company have filed their respective replies to the Public Service Commission staff’s final recommendation in their net-metering dispute.

Coalfield Development doesn’t like it. APCo likes everything except staff’s recommendation for a financial settlement.

Staff said the solar power setup at Huntington-based Coalfield Development Corp.’s West Edge Factory warehouse is not a net-metering setup and APCo is not required to treat it as such.

Coalfield Development is a nonprofit incubator devoted to revitalizing coal communities through renewable energy workforce development projects. It installed 120 kilowatts worth of solar panels on its West Edge Factory warehouse roof and wants to begin net metering service with APCo, but APCo has refused.

The warehouse receives power from APCo via a meter on an alley-way wall connected to an APCo pole. The solar meter is a few feet away on the same wall with a line going to the same pole that feeds power into APCo’s system.

Staff agreed with APCo that this doesn’t fit the definition of net metering under state law or PSC rules because incoming and outgoing power must run through a single interconnection in order to measure the “net” – the power the solar panels would generate in excess of the building’s needs to qualify for credits against Coalfield’s electric bill.

Coalfield wanted to avoid the complications and expense of hooking up to the existing meter. It also wanted to virtually “aggregate” the input and output of the two meters and aggregate the solar output across all of its metered accounts.

Staff said Coalfield’s desire to aggregate the output would amount to “retail wheeling, ‘an impermissible practice by which customer-generators could use the utility’s electric grid to distribute power from one account to another over utility-owned infrastructure,’” essentially using APCo distribution and transmission facilities for free and allowing other APCo customers to bear the cost.

Coalfield’s response to staff was a single sentence: “Coalfield disagrees with and opposes staff’s recommended findings and conclusions.” It said it will supplement that response with another filing by the end of this week.

APCo said it “appreciates the significant efforts of the commission staff in this case, including in preparation of the final memo” and asked the PSC to dismiss or deny Coalfield’s complaint.

The company mentioned the desire of the Solar Holler development company to pursue additional setups like Coalfield’s as a cost-saving measure for its clients (Solar Holler owns the solar array on Coalfield’s building).

“The failure to dismiss or deny the complaint allows for an unlawful use of APCo’s facilities and will only serve to encourage non-compliant behavior,” APCo said.

APCo didn’t care for staff’s proposal regarding Coalfield delivering power into APCo’s system since 2021 without compensation because of the ongoing dispute. Staff said APCo should compensate Coalfield once Coalfield rearranges its system for genuine net metering. APCo had proposed an amount based on PJM wholesale rates but staff said the compensation should conform to the current 1:1 net-metering credit.

APCo referred to staff’s proposal as a “settlement.” It agreed Coalfield should not be compensated until after it corrects its meter setup. But staff’s proposal essentially grants Coalfield’s complaint, rewarding Coalfield and Solar Holler with net-metering revenue for a setup not eligible for net metering.

“Not only is there no basis in law or fact to order such relief, as above stated it would serve only to encourage non-compliant behavior in this and future cases,” it said. “Simply put, this would be the wrong holding and bad policy.”

APCo recommended three possible scenarios going forward. One, rearrange its setup for proper net metering. Two, leave the setup as is and require Solar Holler to apply for service as a small power producer. Or three, failing one of the first two, the PSC should require Coalfield to remove the outgoing meter.