Energy Portfolio Repeal on Fast Track at Statehouse


A bill that’s caused a bit of an uproar in the House and Senate progressed through both chambers at the state house Monday, but that bill is changing shape as it makes its way through both chambers. 

The Alternative and Renewable Energy Act was approved by lawmakers in 2009 under the guise of Governor Joe Manchin. Backed by the coal industry, the law requires electric utilities in the state to produce 25 percent of their energy using alternative and renewable resources, like solar or wind, by 2025.

But industry representatives now say the law forces utilities to use certain types of fuel and could hurt coal production. That’s why lawmakers are working to repeal it, leaving the free market to dictate the energy sources utilities choose.

The Senate Energy Committee took up Senate Bill 1, which would repeal the requirements, for a second time Monday. Last week,

Senate Herb Snyder of Jefferson County moved to amend the bill allowing for a practice called net metering to remain. Snyders’s amendment was approved by the committee, but Senator Craig Blair of Berkeley County suggested another change.

Right now, consumers creating more energy than they can use are given a credit by their electric utility for the excess, but Blair said those individuals or businesses sometimes have more credits than they can use.

His amendment would allow individual energy producers to donate their energy credits to non-profits set up by utilities. Those non-profits help low income families pay their utility bills.

“And as more and more people come online with their own alternative energies in their homes, it gives an opportunity to help those that are in need,” Blair said after the meeting.

The committee approved his amendment as well and moved the bill to the full Senate with recommendation it pass.

The House Judiciary Committee revisited its version of the same bill, House Bill 2001, and heard from Professor James Van Nostrand from West Virginia University who said the law currently in place puts West Virginia on a course to comply with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations on carbon emissions.

“I think there was good in this bill, I think there is still good in this bill for the future, as been testified to by Professor Van Nostrand,” Del. Tim Manchin of Marion County told members of the committee.

“This could very well serve as an important building block in our compliance with EPA standards that we know are coming in West Virginia. Secondly, what we know from our discussion of this bill is that it has done no harm.”

No harm, Manchin said, because utility representatives testified before the committee last week that they have already met the 2015 standards and will meet the 2020 and 2025 requirements without any further cost to them or their customers.

The entire committee, including Manchin, approved the bill to repeal the energy portfolio act. Manchin says despite his concerns over the repeal, his constituents are for it and he voted on their behalf. 

Both Minorities Leaders, Del. Tim Miley and Sen. Jeff Kessler, have asked their respective chamber leaders for an economic impact study on repealing the law. 

“I’ve heard folks from the industry get up and say that it is not a cap and trade bill. Well, what is it? I don’t know, it’s an energy portfolio bill. And then people say, what’s it do? It doesn’t do nothing. The current bill doesn’t do nothing because we already met all the standards when we passed it so the bill doesn’t do anything. What’s it do going forward? Well, it’s going to set new standards of what we’ve got to do in 2020 and 2025 and you ask the industry and they say well, we’re already there too so it doesn’t do nothing. But this would give us an opportunity, Mr. President, to show the public and show the people of this state that we’re creating more jobs if it does so. We’re creating lower energy utility costs for the people we represent, but let’s see if it happens Mr. President because I think we need to work and create sound public policy based upon measurable improvements.”

The Senate has fast tracked the bill and will vote on the Alternative and Renewable Energy Act’s repeal Wednesday. The bill will be on first reading in the House today.