Kentucky House bill could put solar companies out of business


Kentucky based power companies will likely pay less for the power generation from residential rooftop solar under a bill that has cleared the Kentucky House of Representatives.

The bill passed 49-45.

House bill 227 will allow the Kentucky Public Service Commission to decide how much power companies should pay. The commission could set that rate lower than current law dictates, taking the cost of grid maintenance into account.

Utility industry advocates say the bill is necessary to make it fair for people who can’t afford to install solar panels.

Other advocates say solar customers still use the grid, but they don’t pay their fair share for maintaining it..

Jim Gooch, who sponsored the bill, called residential solar customers small businesses because they are generating power and selling it.

“I don’t think anyone out there is forced to buy your excess inventory or excess product and pay you a price that will generate a profit for you. Yet that is what we are really doing,” Gooch said.

Solar companies say the change will put them out of business. Most home solar systems cost about $20,000, not including federal tax credits.

According to Jason Clarke, owner of the residential solar company Synergy Home in Lexington, it would take people longer to recoup their investments if they get less credit for the power they generate, which would make it harder to sell the systems.

Republican leaders sent the bill to the committee, which quickly passed an amended version late Wednesday afternoon, meaning previous amendments were invalid.

GOP leaders then called the bill for a vote on Thursday, which did not give opponents time to file amendments. It’s an often-used tactic to pass controversial bills.

Some supporters, including Republican Rep. Brian Linder, said net-metering without changes amounts to a subsidy for people who can afford to install solar panels.

Everyone else, he says, has to pay more when power companies raise their rates to compensate.

Opponents, including Republican Rep. Phil Moffett, said that wasn’t true. He noted the number of residential solar customers in Kentucky was so small it shouldn’t make a difference

“There is no guarantee that giving the utility companies any kind of break will be passed on to the customer,” Democratic Rep. Angie Hatton said.

The bill still must pass the state Senate before it can become law.