Anti-solar bill flies through Senate

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Solar panel installation (photo by Tiia Monto [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons)

After failing to pass their anti-solar bill the past two sessions, utilities and their supporters pushed through this year’s attempt in record time: SB100 was filed Monday, heard in committee Tuesday, passed Wednesday, and will be heard in a House committee today (Thursday).

The bill would end the current practice of paying utility customers the going rate for electricity when their solar panels send electricity back into the grid, known as “net metering.” Instead, the Public Service Commission would set the rate, with the probable result that consumers would get less. This would lower the financial incentive to invest in solar, thus crippling the industry in the state and negatively affecting the growing number of workers employed by solar companies.

In addition, as noted by Tom Fitzgerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, the bill “lays the groundwork for the utilities to argue that the solar customer is actually being paid and thus is subject to federal regulation as a wholesale electric supplier, so that the PSC can only credit the electricity at wholesale rates. Such a dramatic reduction in the value of solar would have solar customers subsidizing the utilities, who in turn sell that power at retail rates to other customers.”

Since the PSC can change the rates at any time, the payback period for a solar installation becomes a complete unknown, thus further hampering the nascent solar industry in the state.

And finally, even though the bill grandfathers in existing installations at current rates, it ends that benefit after 25 years, thus affecting the resale value of homes and other properties with solar installations.

Kentucky’s approach to consumer solar was already anti-solar compared to other states:

  • It caps the size of net-metered systems at 30 kW, compared to caps in other states ranging from 500 kW to 2,000 kW.
  • It limits the amount of net-metering installations to 1% of the total electrical usage in the state.
  • It stopped providing tax incentives to consumers who install solar, thus hurting consumers and the solar industry.
  • It prohibits community solar installations.

Note that utilities are themselves investing in solar across the state, and in fact offer their own solar installation programs. They know that solar will be a growing part of the energy mix in the future – but they want to own it, not the consumer.

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