A legislative bill obviously designed to discourage solar energy in Kentucky came out of a House committee last week with a strong show of support.
If approved by the full house and Senate and signed by the governor, the bill would make it significantly less attractive financially to install solar energy panels in Kentucky.
Disguised under the title of a “net metering” bill, the legislation would roll back the current reimbursements paid to homeowners with solar panels on their roofs.
Under current regulations, homeowners sell surplus electricity back to utility companies at the retail rate.
House Bill 227 would change that selling price to the much lower wholesale rate, resulting in considerably less income for homeowners.
Firms that install solar panels say the smaller payments could mean that homeowners would need 20 years to recoup the cost of putting panels on their roofs — an average of $20,000 — instead of the current nine years.
One person who protested the bill at a legislative hearing said:
“This bill is essentially killing residential solar energy and allowing the utility companies to maintain a monopoly.”
He described it as the same advantage given a television cable company if it had been illegal to install a satellite dish for TV reception.
In other words, the bill would take away a homeowner’s right to save money by generating electricity as clean, renewable energy from the sun.
State Rep. Jim Gooch, who chairs the committee considering the bill, is the sponsor of House Bill 227.
He claims the current payment model is unfair because it forces utility companies to pay homeowners three times as much as their excess electricity is worth.
Kentucky has about 2,200 solar-powered homes at present and those owners would see no changes in selling rates for 25 years.
Future participants would start receiving the cheaper price for surplus electric in July.
The state’s major investor-owned utilities companies, Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas & Electric, have endorsed the bill.
They and the state’s rural electric cooperatives are building solar farms of their own to generate electricity.
In our opinion, this bill is unfair to homeowners and could rob the state of solar-related jobs in the future.
And it won’t bring back those lost coal mining jobs.