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 area, which resulted in the reopening of full retail network metering in their service area. The decision allows new solar customers to participate in the widespread solar offset mechanism which provides a retail price bill for excess energy sent to the grid.
“The Illinois people have endured enough chaos this year. This small win for a stable clean energy market is a huge relief for thousands of workers whose jobs depend on fair solar policies, ”said Will Kenworthy, Vote Solar’s regulator in the Midwest. “Looking ahead to 2021, sustaining solar savings will be key to sustaining clean energy choices for families and businesses in the United States, and to keeping the state abreast of our climate goals.”
Clean Energy Groups argued that Ameren distorted Illinois law to evade its legal responsibility to fairly offset solar energy on the roof and help Illinois meet its clean energy goals. In July, an ICC Administrative Law judge ruled that Ameren’s calculation of the cap on the number of customers using the net metering was incorrect and concluded that Ameren would continue to give customers the full retail value for their solar power until that time the statutory threshold of 5% should be met, currently estimated for at least two more years.
“Yesterday’s order confirms that Ameren’s decision to end network metering in retail stores in October was premature and illegal,” said Nikhil Vijaykar, attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Fair access to network metering in retail is an integral part of the steady move to clean energy in Illinois.”
“We are grateful to the Commission for implementing our state’s commitment to job creation, consumer protection and cleaner energy,” said Nakhia Morrissette, Central Region Director and Advisor for SEIA. “This is a victory for consumers and independent clean energy businesses.”
The Solar Energy Industries Association, the Illinois Solar Energy Association, the Coalition for Community Solar Access, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Vote Solar alerted the ICC back in April of this year that the Ameren wrong methodology used artificially accelerates us towards the 5% cap. These groups then filed an urgency motion with the ICC in September to prevent Ameren from ending net metering for new solar customers in southern and central Illinois.
Ameren Illinois made the following statement in response to the judgment:
“We will take the time to thoroughly review the order and consult a lawyer to determine if a retry or appeal is warranted. It is too early to know how the new tariff can be implemented.
“Ameren Illinois filed a tariff three years ago based on an explicit reading of the statute. By December 2, the ICC approved and enforced it according to our tariff.
“We continue to agree to the policy enshrined in the law regarding the 5% solar radiation threshold. As net metering expands in our state, so does the subsidy paid by customers who do not have network metering. Some customers cannot afford to install solar panels in their homes and the law recognizes that it is unfair to increase the fees for services to other customers. All customers benefit from our energy supply network, which provides electricity around the clock, and all customers benefit from the work of our employees to maintain this network, to offer reliable service and to switch the light on again quickly after a storm.
“The regulatory process is just that – a process. It continues to evolve and change, and there are times when we agree to an outcome and times when we don’t – but the underlying guidelines are important and the debate that surrounds those guidelines is healthy and continues . We are all striving for the same result – a fair and constructive energy policy for Illinois. “
Message from Vote Solar. Updated with Ameren’s statement at 4:30 p.m. ET.