Net Metering for Landfills and Farmers

Against unfair limitations recently placed on the production of renewable energy at landfills by the Public Utility Commission that are contrary to state law.

PWIA strongly opposes the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) recently finalized regulations limiting the generation of renewable energy by establishing new and unlawful limits on sources qualified to participate in net metering, a program which incentivizes the production of renewable energy. PWIA believes that such limitations violate both the spirit and the explicit language of Act 213 and its subsequent amendments.

Landfill gas is captured and used to produce renewable energy, including electricity. Currently, about 80% of the landfill gas produced in Pennsylvania is beneficially used to make electricity and other forms of renewable energy. The remaining landfill gas is combusted in flares, thereby protecting the environment, but without any energy recovery or beneficial use.

Those landfills without existing renewable energy projects are generally smaller sites and they need the economic benefits of net metering to obtain financing and proceed through development to operation. Several landfill gas renewable energy projects under development are now stalled due to recent regulations which intentionally chill the production of renewable energy. The regulations add new barriers, unauthorized by statute, to limit the ability of landfills, farmers and other citizens and businesses from participating in the net metering program. Without participating in the net metering program, it is highly unlikely that any of the remaining 20% of landfill gas will ever be used to make renewable energy.

These PUC regulations have already chilled development of projects. If the courts or the legislature do not act to override this de facto ban on the development of renewable energy projects at landfills, Pennsylvania will lose its position as a national leader in the production of renewable electricity from landfills.

PWIA supports the on-going legislative efforts to reverse the PUC’s decision to effectively ban landfills and farmers from net metering on the grounds that allowing farmers and landfills to turn waste into renewable electricity is good for the environment and the economy alike. From an environmental perspective, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, turns a waste product into a useful product and conserves land.

At the time the PUC began development of its regulations, Pennsylvania was second in the nation in the production of electricity from landfill gas, a renewable fuel that is continuously generated and is classified as Biologically Derived Methane Gas — a Tier I resource (highest classification) under the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS). Today, Pennsylvania’s national rank has fallen to third and is expected to fall further as other states continue to increase their generation of renewable energy at landfills while Pennsylvania does not.

Pennsylvania landfills have won a disproportionately large number of national awards for its landfill gas-to-energy projects compared to other states and the nation as a whole.