The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has dismissed a petition by two Maryland electric cooperatives that asked the agency to find that the state’s community solar program regulations are inconsistent with federal law.
FERC did not rule on the merits of the co-ops’ petition and said it was premature because concerns about rates the co-ops may have to pay is “speculative” and, in addition, the issue may be taken up by state regulators.
- The co-ops, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and Choptank Electric Cooperative, argued that the rates paid to solar developers must be priced at the utility’s avoided cost rate under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978.
Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) was designed in 1978 to encourage renewable resources, but more recently it has been popping up in unexpected ways in connection.
In an ongoing case in Connecticut, a dispute over PURPA has put a hold on a tri-state renewable solicitation. There, Allco Finance is arguing that Connecticut must comply with PURPA avoided costs when setting rates for projects won through the solicitation.
Similarly, the two Maryland electric cooperatives argue that the rates they pay solar project developers for energy generated in excess of ratepayers’ community solar subscription payments must be priced at PURPA avoided costs.
The case has drawn comments from the Edison Electric Institute, the Electric Power Supply Association, the American Petroleum Institute, and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which all supported the co-ops’ position.
The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, environmental advocates, and solar installers, on the other hand, all back Maryland’s community solar program.
FERC did not rule on the merits, but noted that tariffs have not been filed yet with the Maryland Public Service Commission in conjunction with the solar program and that when they are, the cooperatives’ “concerns could well be addressed and resolved in the course of this separate review process.”