A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky House to vote on utility-backed bill that would discourage rooftop solar installations

Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

The Kentucky House is set to vote on legislation that would allow utility companies to change how they credit homeowners for the surplus electricity generated by rooftop solar panels.

Critics of Senate Bill 100, including the Sierra Club in Kentucky, have said it would stifle the market for solar energy in the state and make it difficult for customers to know how much money they’d save by investing in rooftop solar. The utilities have argued that they’re losing money under the current crediting system.

More than 250,000 Americans worked in the solar industry as of 2017, according to the National Solar Jobs Census. (Photo from @edemarco5/Twenty20, via PNS)

Andy McDonald, director of sustainable-systems programs at Earth Tools Inc., a Kentucky-based producer of farm and garden equipment, said any customer using less energy is problematic for the utilities.

“What that argument fails to address is that any customer who uses less energy is in the same position,” he said, “so if you put insulation in your attic and your usage goes down, you’re not using as many kilowatt hours.”

Kentucky ranks 43rd nationwide in solar production. About 4,000 homes in the state are equipped with solar panels. Under current net-metering laws, solar customers get credits for producing excess energy that is fed back into the grid.

McDonald said the new legislation would make it harder for Kentuckians considering rooftop solar panels to determine the return they’d get on their investment. In the longer term, he said, he thinks the utilities have their eye on solar power as a potential moneymaker.

“What it appears to me to be,” he said, “is that the utilities want to push out any competition they might possibly have, and secure the market for solar to themselves.”

According to a 2017 report by the Solar Foundation, there currently are 49 solar-energy companies in Kentucky, employing more than 1,200 people.

The text of SB 100 is online at legiscan.com.

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