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Backed by Utilities, Bill Would Discourage KY Rooftop Solar

More than 250,000 Americans worked in the solar industry as of 2017, according to the National Solar Jobs Census. (@edemarco5/Twenty20)
More than 250,000 Americans worked in the solar industry as of 2017, according to the National Solar Jobs Census. (@edemarco5/Twenty20)
February 27, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. - 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.

Andy McDonald, director of sustainable-ystems 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.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY