Solar advocates and utilities are facing-off in Missouri over proposed legislation that could allow utilities to impose up to 75 percent in new fees on rooftop solar customers. House Bill 340, proposed by State Representative Travis Fitzwater (R), would enable utilities to recover costs they claim get passed on to non-solar customers for allowing net-metering and grid connections. The bill also would limit the definition of “retail electric supplier” and prohibit rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities with less than 20,000 meters from offering net-metering for customers that want to install solar.
“This bill would allow utilities to charge an additional 75 percent ‘solar tax’ on solar owners. So, for example, if your fixed customer charge is $20 a month, then your utility could charge you an additional $15 solar tax. Thirty-five dollars a month may still sound like cheap energy, but think of the thousands and thousands of dollars these homeowners and small businesses have already invested in their solar equipment,” wrote Lynn Youngblood, executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association, in the Devil Lakes Journal. Indeed, in that scenario when added up, the fees could cost each rooftop solar customer up to $4,200 over 10 years.
The bill, which would amend the state’s Net-Metering and Easy Connection Act, would introduce new net-metering rate structures that would allow utilities to recover the costs they claim are associated with allowing rooftop solar. Supporters of the bill emphasize that recovery of costs associated with rooftop solar generation would prevent unfair subsidization and prevent these expenses from being passed to customers that do not have rooftop solar or participate in solar programs.
“Thus far, 14 states have tried to impose a similar solar tax, and it has been defeated in each case. Missouri would be the only state in the Union to impose a separate solar tax. I would hope that Missourians would rise to the occasion and want their state to be known for progressive energy standards,” asserted Youngblood.
Solar advocates oppose the bill and contend that net-metering is a catalyst and an essential to growing the solar industry in Missouri. The Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association, Sunsmart Technologies and others argue that HB 340 was drafted without input from the state’s solar industry. As such it, “Represents a targeted attack of environmental businesses in the state,” according to a summary of testimony heard by the Missouri House of Representatives’ House Utilities Committee.
“The Renewable Energy Standards overwhelmingly passed in 2008 by Missouri voters to support solar and wind in Missouri would be effectively overturned by bills like HB 340 for the sole benefit of the utility industry,” said Show Me Solar founder Jeff Owens. “In contrast, Missouri citizens, organizations, and businesses have worked hard to establish sustainable energy that will create green jobs, businesses, promote the economy for the benefit of all Missourians.”Tweet