By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill that would change how much owners of solar power systems are reimbursed for electricity they add to the power grid passed the state Senate Wednesday by a 23-12 vote.
The legislation, known as Senate Bill 100, is often referred to as the net metering bill, a reference to the type of billing structure applied to owners who have installed solar power panels, often on top of their homes or small businesses.
The bill passed the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee on Thursday with a 10-3 vote. Senate Bill 100 now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor.
Current law requires utility companies to credit private net metering energy customers, such as those with rooftop solar, for electricity they generate at a rate that’s higher than utilities pay for other energy sources.
Senate Bill 100, sponsored by Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, would continue to require the utility to take excess power generated by private net metering customers but would ensure a fair way for all customers to pay for utility service by authorizing the Public Service Commission (PSC) to determine the value of excess electricity. The PSC regulates retail electric service throughout most of the state.
Smith said Senate Bill 100 is not a solar bill and is not a utility bill but rather a rate payer bill that ensures fair costs for all consumers.
Testimony was heard from both sides of the issue with solar producers and advocates discussing their concerns with the policy and the negative impact they feel if it were passed. The solar advocates said the policy would affect the livelihood of residential solar producers but acknowledged that Senate Bill 100 grandfathers in existing solar customers.
David Samford, a Lexington attorney, also testified on the bill stating the issue has become unnecessarily controversial and complex. Samford said net metering is a subsidy that was enacted to incentivize solar production but added the current net metering statute is unique because the credit paid to the net metering customers is greater than the value of the electricity they are putting on the grid. This subsidy can’t be changed because the statute circumvents the PSC’s review of the value of the net metering customers’ generation.