Illinois Commerce Commission vote reinstates full retail net-metering for Ameren customers

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 its territory, resulting in the reopening of full retail net metering in its 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.”

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.”

“We are grateful to the Commission for following through on our state’s commitment to creating jobs, protecting consumers and expanding clean energy,” said Nakhia Morrissette, Central Region Director & Counsel for SEIA. “This is a victory for consumers and independent clean energy businesses.”

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.

Ameren Illinois issued the following statement in response to the ruling:

“We will take the time we need to thoroughly review the order and consult with legal counsel to determine whether a rehearing or appeal is warranted. It is too soon to know how the new tariff can be implemented.

“Ameren Illinois filed a tariff three years ago and it was based on an express reading of the statute. Up until December 2, the ICC approved and enforced it in accordance with our tariff.

“We continue to agree with the underlying policy embedded in the law with respect to the 5% solar penetration threshold. As net metering expands in our state, the subsidy being paid by non-net metering customers grows as well. Some customers cannot afford solar facilities to be installed on their homes, and the law recognizes that it’s unfair to increase their rates to pay for services provided to other customers. All customers benefit from our energy delivery grid that makes power available 24/7, and all customers benefit from the labor performed by our employees to maintain that grid, provide reliable service and get the lights back on quickly after storms.

“The regulatory process is just that — a process. It continues to evolve and change and there are times when we agree with an outcome and times we don’t — but the underlying policies are important and the debate that surrounds those policies is healthy and will continue. We are all after the same result — fair and constructive energy policy for Illinois.”

News item from Vote Solar. Updated with Ameren’s statement at 4:30 p.m. ET.