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Alternative energy rule change could impact solarBy Joseph Deinlein

The state Public Utility Commission is considering a new regulation that would cap the amount of energy that could be produced and sold back to the power grid by a private alternative energy system.

Though the new rule would most directly affect solar array systems, it also applies to other energy systems, including low-impact hydro power and biomass facilities, said PUC spokeswoman Robin Tilley. The regulation is being done to update practices with the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act of 2004.

“These proposed rules essentially would make net metering regulations consistent across the commonwealth,” Tilley said. “(It) basically codifies regulations that are already in place.”

The amount of energy an alternative system can produce is being capped at 110 percent of the previous year, according to the proposal. This limit ends up helping other consumers on the power grid who do not use alternative energy systems, Tilley said. The utility is required to pay for the electricity coming from the alternative system, meaning that cost would be passed on, she said.

Based on comments filed so far with the PUC available on the agency’s website, alternative energy companies are not in favor of the new regulations and some question their need.

“Given the profound and chilling impact these changes will have on renewable energy in Pennsylvania, the commission cannot use vague terms as justification for their actions,” wrote David N. Hommrich, president of Sunrise Energy LLC, based in Pittsburgh. “It is incumbent upon them to provide an accurate accounting in support of their claims.”

The comment period for the proposed regulation ends on Sept. 3. The docket number is L-2014-2404361.

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