The Kentucky House Natural Resources Committee has advanced a controversial bill that would scale back Kentucky’s solar net metering program, making it eligible for a vote from the full Kentucky House of Representatives.
About 1,000 households in Kentucky with rooftop solar panels put extra energy back onto the power grid through Kentucky’s net metering program.
State law requires power companies to compensate those households with credits that can be used on future power bills. But under House Bill 227, the value of those credits would be reduced from the retail price of power to the wholesale price — a reduction of about two-thirds.
Rep. Kelly Flood, a Democrat from Lexington, said the bill would make it less affordable for people to install solar panels on their houses.
“We’re bringing a sledgehammer to this diversifying economy at a time to when this state is proud of having an economy that is based on energy,” Flood said.
The legislation is supported by utility companies, who say they are losing money by compensating solar households with the retail price of power.
Before Thursday’s vote, the bill had twice been on the committee’s agenda but never received a vote — signaling there weren’t enough votes to advance it.
But then, Chairman Jim Gooch, a Republican from Providence, added three members to the committee — two members voted in favor of the bill, and one passed.
Rep. Myron Dossett, a Republican from Pembroke, denied that he was added to the committee in order to secure votes to pass the net metering changes.
“When I was asked to serve on this committee that bill was never mentioned to me,” said Dossett, who voted in favor of the bill. “Personally, I took offense because I’ve been here for 12 years. I know enough whenever I’m put in a position — study the bill. I spent the weekend researching, studying House Bill 227.”
Last week Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, a Republican from Prospect, said new members were added because absences had prevented the committee from having enough votes to legally vote on bills.
He predicted that the full House would vote on the bill if it passed committee.
Rep. Jim DuPlessis, a Republican from Elizabethtown, also voted in favor of the bill but said he wanted to file amendments to change the bill before the House vote.
“I think this bill gives too big of a haircut to the solar companies and to the solar user but I think its intentions are correct, in trying to correct some of the fixed costs that are not being covered right now,” DuPlessis said.
Rep. Brian Linder, a Republican from Dry Ridge, voted for the bill, saying the net metering program didn’t benefit people in his district.
“I received many, many letters on this. However, 98 to 99 percent of them are from Lexington and Louisville residents,” said Linder.
“You see, it takes over $20,000 to install solar and my middle class people in my district can’t afford that. And they end up subsidizing the people in Lexington and Louisville.”
Last year, lawmakers considered a similar bill that would have changed the reimbursement rates for future customers. It was discussed in committee, but never voted on.