U.S. Senate Passes Stalled Energy Bill Without Solar NEM Amendment


On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed a long-stalled energy bill after lawmakers ended a partisan dispute over funding for the water-contamination crisis in Flint, Mich.

S.2012, also called the Energy Policy Modernization Act, includes several provisions that could prove helpful for solar. However, a proposed amendment focused on protecting solar customers from retroactive net energy metering (NEM) changes did not make the final cut.

In February, U.S. Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, and Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced they wanted to add Amendment 3120 to the energy bill. The provision would have limited the ability of state agencies and utilities to retroactively change NEM rates for existing customers, and the senators proposed it amid the hot debate in Nevada, Reid’s home state, over newly slashed NEM rates.

Although the King-Reed amendment is not in the passed bill, King did manage to get another NEM-related provision included. According to a press release, the amendment would require the U.S. Department of Energy “to conduct a study on net metering and release related guidance to ensure that owners of [distributed energy resources, such as solar] are properly compensated for the energy they add to the electricity grid.”

“As more and more people recognize the advantages of making their own power, states and utility companies are duking it out over how to best incorporate these new distributed resources into the electric grid. But without any guidance from the federal government, there’s no referee in the fight,” said King in a 2015 announcement explaining the amendment.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has applauded the Senate passage of the Energy Policy Modernization Act.

“This legislation contains several notable wins for solar energy,” says Christopher Mansour, vice president of federal affairs for SEIA, in a press release. “Chief among them are the inclusion of solar heating and cooling as technologies that can meet the federal government’s renewable portfolio standard, language directing the Energy Department to identify appropriate costs and benefits for the valuation of distributed generation solar, provisions to improve permitting of solar power plants sited on federal lands, and directing the Energy Department to study avian populations and to establish baseline scientific information.

“We look forward to working with House and Senate leaders to ensure that any final measure sent to the president has strong pro-solar policies and leaves out any provisions harmful to our industry,” concludes Mansour.

The bill now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

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