Protect KY's homegrown solar industry. Defeat HB 227.

 UPDATE: 3.16.2018

A new (and equally bad) version of HB 227, the anti-rooftop solar bill, was passed Wednesday by the Kentucky House, after squeaking through a hastily called committee meeting less than 24 hours earlier. In fact, the revised version of the bill (HCS2) was not publicly available until AFTER the House vote. After a spirited floor debate, the bill passed by a 49 to 44 margin. See how House member voted.

Now HB 227 moves to the Senate.

It's essential for everyone to call 800-372-7181 and leave a message for "my senator, and all members of the Senate." The message can simply be: "Vote NO on HB 227. Defeat this bad bill. Protect homegrown solar businesses and jobs in Kentucky."

HB 227 has been assigned to the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and chairman Jared Carpenter has indicated he plans to call it for a vote next Wednesday at 11 a.m. 

bill has been the subject of intense lobbying all session. In late January, HB 227 bill appeared stalled in committee. After strong testimony from solar industry representatives and advocates, Rep. Gooch realized he did not have the votes to pass the bill. So he abruptly adjourned the meeting without a vote. He acknowledged that this issue has gotten more public outcry than any other issue in the General Assembly other than pensions and medical marijuana.

But it was given new life in early February when GOP leaders in the House took the unusual step of adding three new members to the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Their additional votes were enough to pass the bill through committee and send it on its way. After that, the bill was bogged down by 29 proposed floor amendments that made its passage in the House more difficult. Several weeks ago House leaders sent it back to Gooch's committee to be re-worked. Gooch called several special meetings to try to get it through his committee for a second time. But until March 13 he did not have enough votes to do so. Now that he has succeeded, and our attention has to turn to the Senate.

Your calls and emails and conversations with your neighbors and your legislators are powerful. But the utilities and their lobbying firms are pushing hard. It's important to keep up the pressure! Thanks for contacting your senator!

Urgent actions to defeat HB 227, a bill that endangers rooftop solar in Kentucky.

  • Call 800-372-7181 to leave a message for "my senator, and all members of the Senate." Suggested message: "Vote NO on HB 227. Defeat this bad bill. Protect homegrown solar businesses and jobs in KY."

 Problems with HB 227 (including House Committee Substitute Version 2)

  1. UNFAIRNESS – HB 227 is UNFAIR to solar businesses and all the people who want to use solar power. It benefits only utilities – allowing them to recover costs without considering the benefits of solar to the utility or ratepayers.
  2. REGULATORY BURDENS – HB 227 would burden the solar industry and PSC with 23 recurring rate cases and will result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in recurring PSC litigation costs.
  3. ENSURING UNCERTAINTY FOR CUSTOMER INVESTMENTS - This bill allows frequent, recurring rate cases that could change the terms of net metering for existing and future customers and sets up no language to protect customer investments. This makes it impossible to predict the value of an investment and would thereby destroy the market for rooftop solar.
  4. CLAMPING DOWN ON MARKETS – HCS4 makes HB 227 even worse by imposing a hard cap of 1% on the solar market for every utility. This restriction is the exact opposite of the solar industry’s goal (and the desire of many Kentuckians), which is to expand the solar market.
  5. TILTING THE PLAYING FIELD FURTHER IN FAVOR OF UTILITIES – The solar industry seeks a level playing field to compete with utilities via increasing system sizes, and access to leases, PPA’s, and other tools. This bill does not address any of these concerns. It only serves the utilities’ interests.
  6. ONGOING FAILURE TO COMPROMISE – HCS4 creates the pretense of meeting the solar industry’s concerns by directing this issue to the PSC, but it fails to create a fair and reasonable process to resolve the issue. Establishing an unclear, unfair, costly, and burdensome process that favors only the utilities, while immediately disrupting the solar market and restricting its long-term growth is not the result of compromise.

Background information

Kentuckians want affordable and clean energy. We value independence and self-reliance. And as costs continue to fall, it’s no wonder that rooftop solar is an increasingly popular choice for many households, farmers and businesses. In recent years our homegrown solar industry has expanded steadily, creating good new jobs in every region.

But right now, Kentucky lawmakers are pushing an extreme anti-solar bill, HB 227, that will smash independent solar businesses and shatter our opportunity to create a thriving clean energy economy.

This bad bill was introduced by Reps. Jim Gooch, Larry Brown, Sal Santoro, Jeff Greer and Matt Castlen. 

HB 227 re-writes the rules to reward monopoly utility companies and punish consumers. It guts an existing law, known as net metering, that gives qualifying solar customers in Kentucky a one-for-one credit for energy their rooftop systems provide to the grid. If passed, the bill would put rooftop solar out-of-reach for most Kentuckians.

Net-metering is the name for a popular state policy which gives customers a one-for-one credit on their utility bills for energy delivered to the grid by rooftop solar panels or by other forms of locally installed renewable energy.

HB 227 seeks to reward and protect utility monopolies, while restricting consumer choice and hobbling Kentucky’s independent solar energy industry by:

  • Rewriting Kentucky’s net-metering rules so that monopoly utility companies – and not Kentucky’s residents, workers, or solar businesses – can benefit from solar energy.

  • Ending net-metering as we know it and slash by about 65% (or more) the value of the credit utilities give to customers for energy from their rooftop solar systems.

  • Establishing a new value for solar energy credits that is based only on the costs claimed by the utility, while disregarding the many benefits that net-metered solar energy systems deliver to utilities and all non-participating customers.

  • Grandfathering in existing net-metered systems, but ending those arrangements when a property is sold. 

Taken together, these provisions could bring rooftop solar installations to a screeching halt across Kentucky, while ensuring that electric utility monopolies are the only ones permitted to benefit and profit from the power of the sun.

The version of the bill that passed through the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee on March 13th is called a "compromise" by the Rep. Gooch. But it was not produced from negotiations with Kentucky's solar industry representatives and advocates. And it is in no way acceptable. 

Even before the introduction of HB 227, Kentucky’s solar energy laws are among the most restrictive in the nation. For example, Kentucky already:

  • Caps the size of net-metered systems at 30 kW. (The limit in West Virginia, Indiana and Virginia are 2,000, 1,000, and 500 kW respectively.)

  • Caps the total capacity of net-metered systems at 1% of a utility’s peak load, a fraction of what other states are already achieving.

  • Provides no state tax incentives for customers who install their own renewable energy systems.

  • Prohibits 3rd party ownership of renewable energy systems, bans virtual net-metering (the ability to assign net-metering credits to other customer accounts), and prohibits independently owned community solar farms.

Kentuckians won’t be surprised to learn that HB 227 is being pushed by a well-funded industry lobbying effort. A front group calling itself “Kentuckians For Solar Fairness” is now running ads in favor of the extreme anti-solar bill. That PR effort is funded by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), which is housed in a Washington, DC-based lobbying firm backed by major utilities and oil and gas companies. In recent years, CEA was found to have submitted fraudulent public comments to the Federal Regulatory Commission and on a petition about a utility rate case in Wisconsin. Yet representatives of the CEA were recently invited to testify before an interim joint committee of the Kentucky General Assembly about solar net-metering.