Proposed federal energy rollbacks threaten renewable energy growth

Newly proposed FERC rollbacks would result in less clean and renewable energy being built in the Southeast. (© Ryan McKnight)

This week, SELC filed comments on behalf of eighteen organizations across the Southeast opposing proposed rollbacks to clean energy policies at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

One of FERC’s duties is to implement the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act. Enacted in 1978 to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and encourage renewable energy generation, the law enables competition by requiring monopoly utilities to purchase power from certain independent power producers.

In many states, PURPA is the only legal tool available to support the development of independent power producers that promote energy independence, reduce reliance on fossil fuel generation, and provide low-cost renewable energy to ratepayers.

These and other proposed rollbacks will have an outsized impact on the Southeast, where PURPA—when implemented well at both the federal and state level—provides the rare opportunity for clean energy competition in a region otherwise still dominated by monopoly electric utilities.”

—Senior Attorney Lauren Bowen

“The agency’s latest proposals will make it easier for utilities to avoid their federal obligations by increasing uncertainty and impairing financing for renewable energy projects, and by reducing the requirement to purchase clean renewable energy,” says Senior Attorney Lauren Bowen, leader of SELC’s Solar Power Initiative.

FERC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking this fall, which includes changes to allow payments for renewable energy to vary widely over the term of a power purchase contract, making it more difficult for solar companies and other independent power producers to secure financing.

Says Bowen, “These and other proposed rollbacks will have an outsized impact on the Southeast, where PURPA—when implemented well at both the federal and state level—provides the rare opportunity for clean energy competition in a region otherwise still dominated by monopoly electric utilities.”

SELC and its partners are urging FERC to rescind its proposed rollbacks, and instead, strengthen and enforce key provisions in the existing regulations to encourage renewable energy as the federal law requires. For a full list of our comments and partners in this challenge, click here.

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