A new state regulatory decision will allow farmers to continue selling electricity from manure-based digesters to utilities.
The digesters have been pushed as one way for agriculture to reduce nutrients that pollute the Chesapeake Bay.
Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission in its ruling last Thursday exempted manure-fueled electricity generators at farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed — including those in Lancaster County — from new caps on how much electricity utility companies are required to buy from them at retail prices.
Under this law, (and there are many like it regarding "renewable energy"), farmers are allowed to sell any power they generate using manure digesters back to power distributors at retail rates. It's a bit like if grocery stores were required to buy peoples home grown tomatoes back at the price marked on the bin, even if they weren't quite as regular, and needed to be cleaned and displayed for sale. Do you think they'd be very happy about it?
Utilities aren't happy about purchasing excess power at retail price, which is higher than the wholesale price used to purchase most of their power.It makes it look like the power companies are paying for the renewable power. Of course, that's not true, ultimately the consumers are paying the price in increased rates.
That and costs associated with putting the excess alternative-energy power into electrical grid will have to be borne by other consumers, and that is unfair, utilities argue.
Initially, the commission had sided with the utilities and proposed limiting excess energy purchase to 110 percent beyond the alternative energy producer’s needs. However, Thursday, the commission voted 3-2 vote to raise the ceiling to 200 percent.
And, they exempted methane digesters at farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In Lancaster County, that applies to at least nine farms.