Illinois Commission sides with solar in Ameren’s attempt to skirt net metering rules

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The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) voted 4-1 on Wednesday to reject Ameren Illinois’ proposed calculation of the number of solar net metering customers in their territory, resulting in the reopening of full retail net metering in their service territory. The decision will allow new solar customers to participate in the widely used solar compensation mechanism that provides a bill credit equal to the retail rate for excess energy sent to the grid.

“Illinoisans have endured enough chaos this year. This small victory for a stable clean energy market is a big relief for the thousands of workers whose jobs hinge on fair solar policy,” said Will Kenworthy, Vote Solar Regulatory Director, Midwest. “Looking ahead to 2021, maintaining solar savings will be key to preserving clean energy choice for downstate families and businesses, and keeping the state on track with our climate goals.”

What’s the argument? Clean energy groups argued that Ameren distorted Illinois statute in order to avoid its legal responsibility to fairly compensate rooftop solar and help Illinois meet its clean energy goals. In July, an ICC administrative law judge found that Ameren’s calculation of the cap on the number of customers using net metering was wrong, and concluded Ameren should continue crediting customers the full retail value for their solar energy until the 5% threshold set in the law is met, currently estimated to be at least two more years.

“Yesterday’s Order confirms that Ameren’s decision to end retail net metering in October was premature and unlawful.” said Nikhil Vijaykar, Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Fair access to retail net metering is a key ingredient in Illinois’ steady clean energy transition.”

“This decision is good for Illinois’ energy future and especially for the southern part of the state in Ameren territory,” said Toba Pearlman, NRDC’s senior attorney. “Illinois must continue to invest in clean, rooftop and community solar and ensure that customers are fairly compensated for the clean energy that they produce.”

The Solar Energy Industries Association, Illinois Solar Energy Association, Coalition for Community Solar Access, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Vote Solar alerted the ICC back in April of this year that the incorrect methodology that Ameren was using was artificially accelerating us towards the 5% cap. Those groups then filed an emergency motion with the ICC in September to prevent Ameren from ending net metering for new solar customers in Southern and Central Illinois.

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