Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) is encouraging state lawmakers to support legislation that would prevent the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) from restricting the ability of working farms to generate electricity from renewable energy resources on their farms.

In testimony presented before the Pennsylvania House Consumer Affairs Committee, PFB expressed concerns over regulations proposed by the PUC that would restrict the future development of renewable energy on farms. PFB is concerned the PUC could curtail renewable energy generation on farms by significantly restricting a farmer’s ability to use net metering as a way to repay the cost of developing a system.

PFB supports House Bill 1349, which would prevent the PUC from putting caps or limitations on farmers who generate electricity through methane digesters, but recommended that lawmakers provide a broader exemption to farmers generating electricity from other renewable sources, such as wind and solar, to meet the farm’s energy needs. Last year, the PUC proposed standards that would limit the generating capacity of systems whose sale of electricity to electrical companies qualifies for net metering—which helps pay for the expense of building renewable energy systems. Working farms use much of the electricity these systems generate. The regulations were proposed by PUC to prevent public utility companies from receiving net metering treatment through legal loopholes but the regulations will also thwart future development of on-farm energy generating.

Farmers have developed renewable energy systems to help them take control of their utility costs and, in the case of methane digesters, better manage nutrients and protect the environment. Net metering has helped reduce the cost of building renewable energy systems and manage the overall cost of operating a farm, said Grant Gulibon, PFB’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.

“Farmers need to make substantial on-farm income to repay the significant debt incurred in their construction and operation of renewable energy systems,” Gulibon said. “Net metering plays an important role, not only in increasing farmers’ ability to show potential financiers that the generating system will improve the farm’s income potential, but also in allowing the farmer to obtain more feasible terms of financing and repayment of debt.”

Farm Bureau told lawmakers that HB 1349 is a good first step in addressing the underlying problems in the PUC proposed net metering rules, but suggested amending the language to include an agriculture exemption for energy generated through wind and solar.