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Lawmakers Want Individual Solar Users to Pony Up on Utility Costs

Wyoming has the eighth-best solar resources among 50 states but is ranked 43rd in solar jobs per capita, according to the Solar Foundation. (Pixabay)
Wyoming has the eighth-best solar resources among 50 states but is ranked 43rd in solar jobs per capita, according to the Solar Foundation. (Pixabay)
September 27, 2019

JACKSON, Wyo. – Wyoming lawmakers are considering a measure that would increase utility bills for individuals and businesses with solar panels who sometimes get power from the grid, mainly when the sun isn't shining.

Since solar users don't use as much energy as do other customers, proponents say they're not paying enough for grid maintenance. Scott Kane, co-owner of the solar company Creative Energies points out that people and businesses who conserve energy or increase efficiencies are also low-energy users.

"All of those people might somehow be cost shifting,” says Kane. “In the argument being made, however, it's only the solar that's being singled out as unfairly shifting costs away from itself."

Because a portion of a utility's cost for infrastructure and maintenance is tacked onto the cost of kilowatt-hour usage, lawmakers claim changing the state's net-metering laws would give relief to customers who don't have solar.

Kane points to data showing that individual solar can continue to grow in Wyoming under existing laws at the same rate for the next decade before contributing to any meaningful cost-shifts.

The new law would allow utilities to charge solar customers for all the electricity they use, including what their solar panels generate, at a high retail rate. Customers would then get much lower wholesale credit for the solar energy they produced.

Kane has warned state legislators that the move could cripple Wyoming's nascent solar industry.

"People should be communicating with their legislators that they think that solar is important in Wyoming,” says Kane, “from the standpoint of moving toward a cleaner grid, economic diversification, developing jobs."

The manager of Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Airport told lawmakers at a meeting last week that any cost shifts could be fixed by taking infrastructure costs out of energy-use fees and adding them to the base rate instead.

The Legislature's Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee is expected to review a revised measure when it meets again in November.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY