Kentucky lawmakers have placed the future of rooftop solar in the hands of state regulators, changing how homeowners and small businesses receive compensation for the excess power they produce.
Late Thursday night, House representatives stripped Senate Bill 100 of protections favored by the state’s rooftop solar industry before adopting it in a 55 to 36 vote. The measure now moves to the governor’s office for a signature.
Rooftop solar installers and advocates say the measure will slow the growth of solar in the state and give large utilities the upper hand in cornering the market on solar energy production.
Louisville Gas & Electric and Republican bill backers say the bill is a fair compromise that ends an unfair premium for private solar generation.
The bill grants state utility regulators authority to determine the credit that solar customers receive for the electricity they feed back into the grid.
Changing that value impacts the rate of return that small businesses and homes receive for putting solar panels on their rooftops.
Right now, rooftop solar customers receive a credit for the retail value of the power they put back on the grid. Utilities say that credit is unfairly high and should be closer to the value it costs them to generate the power wholesale — a substantially lower sum.
However, Senate Bill 100 leaves it to state utility regulators to determine the value of the credit.
An amendment stripped from the bill late Thursday would have added additional protections for rooftop solar customers. It would have required utility regulators to consider all of the benefits as well as the costs that residential solar offers to utilities.
It also would have allowed third-party organizations to intervene in rate cases that go before utility regulators to make sure rooftop solar customer receive a fair credit for the energy they put back on the grid.
Kentucky Solar Industries Association President Matt Partymiller said the bill is a setback for people who want to produce their own solar energy, and for a fledgling industry that employs blue collar workers.
“Monopolies won today. The action that was taken is a huge blow to the many people employed by small, locally owned businesses in the solar industry,” Partymiller said. “It is a blow to every Kentuckian who wants to choose solar as his or her energy provider.”
Chris Whelan with Louisville Gas & Electric said the measure leaves intact opportunities to grow solar in the state while sharing costs fairly between all ratepayers.
“We’re pleased that’s where it’s headed. We’re pleased for our customers, that [the credit] will be determined in a way that looks at all the benefits and the costs and is distributed fairly,” Whelan said.