Update on Electricity Generated by Methane Digesters

March 10, 2016

In September we blogged about an update on efforts to protect farmers’ ability to sell excess electricity generated by methane digesters used on the farms. Electric companies are trying to limit the amount of electricity farmers can sell. But a proposed bill introduced by State Representative David Zimmerman, would remove the limits on the excess electricity produced by methane digesters. Recently, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission adopted regulations that accomplished the same goal. While some sources of renewable electricity, like solar farms, are limited to the amount of electricity they can sell back to electric companies, most farmers will not be subject to these same limits. According to the new regulations, the limits will not apply to electricity generators if they are part of the DEP’s Chesapeake Watershed Implementation Plan, or part of a farm’s approved Nutrient Management Plan. In the Susquehanna Valley, we believe that this should allow any farmer with an anaerobic methane digester to sell all of his or her excess electricity to the appropriate power companies.

Rep. Zimmerman correctly pointed out that this PUC regulation is a good step for farmers and for the Chesapeake Bay environment.  But like any agency regulation, it can be changed by the agency in the future. This regulation was adopted by the PUC by a narrow 3-2 vote.  Because of this, Zimmerman believes that a change to the state laws is necessary to protect farmers, and is continuing to work towards passage of his bill.

In this and our previous update, TeamAg, Inc. of Ephrata was instrumental in getting the PUC to enact this regulation. TeamAg is a leader in the design and permitting of agricultural projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Land Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.