For those who are regular followers of KCC, you know that we, along with a determined group of respected allies, had been engaged in a nearly three-year dialogue with utilities, facilitated by Senator Morgan McGarvey, on how to resolve many real (and perhaps not so real) areas of difference between regulated utilities and independent solar businesses and grow the emerging solar market. At the end of the last session, we left without a bill being introduced, but with a willingness to continue a constructive dialogue.
It was not entirely surprising this session, however, on the last day to introduce new Senate bills, to see the filing of SB214, a utility-backed bill which would have allowed them to impose new fees on net metering customers and to change those fees over time. Independent solar advocates believe that the financial uncertainty created by this bill and other regulatory barriers it creates would actually discourage companies interested in renewables from coming to Kentucky.
Kentucky’s solar workforce now exceeds 1200 workers throughout the state and employment in this sector grew by 20%, even with the current outdated laws and restrictions on the industry. It is for this reason that we had invested so much time in trying to find ways to close the gap between the needs of the regulated utilities and small solar businesses.
Our group of solar business representatives, Ky. Conservation Committee lobbyists, and Tom FitzGerald from Ky. Resources Council, worked around the clock to bring to light the flaws in this legislation, propose ways to repair a bad bill, and alert our members, supporters, and the grassroots community about the threat to home-grown solar (see news articles below). The effort expanded quickly, and many other nonprofits and solar businesses worked in an unprecedented effort to stand up for home-grown solar.
Senator Carpenter delayed the first committee hearing of this bill which had been scheduled for Feb. 22, while solutions were worked on. At the following hearing on March 1, solar employees packed the room to defend their jobs, along with grassroots volunteers and solar customers, and our core team who shepherded the bill alternatives.
The hearing opened with a declaration that the bill would be tabled once again.
“I’m just not comfortable with the language that we had together last night and I want to make sure that I protect both sides of the industry and all the rate-payers in Kentucky,” Senator Carpenter stated. “That’s what this bill really comes down to. And so with a limited amount of time we have it’s going to be hard for it to go anywhere, but I’m still going to continue working on the issue and it may be something we can address during the interim.”
And I guarantee, we at KCC will continue working on this issue as well.
PLEASE ACT: We want to strongly urge you to call Senator Jared Carpenter, members of the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee, and thank them for listening to constituents and not move forward with a flawed bill. And then call Senate Leadership, and tell them you want to see real collaboration with independent solar businesses on real solutions to grow the solar jobs market in Kentucky. We also urge you to thank Senator Morgan McGarvey, who began the work to bring independent solar companies and regulated utilities together. Legislative message line: 1-800-372-7181.
There were many, many supporters who made calls and special efforts to this work. But I do want to take a minute to express my very personal thanks to my working partners in this effort: Randy Strobo, Andy McDonald, Tom FitzGerald, Steve Wilkins, Matt Partymiller, Josh Bills and Robert Chatham.— Lane Boldman, KCC Exec. Director.
Articles on SB214:
- “Bill to Regulate Solar Power Put on Hold By Sponsor,” US News & World Report, March 1, 2017
- “Controversial Solar Bill Running out of Daylight This Session,” Josh James, WUKY, March 1, 2017
- “State Senator ‘Shocked’ by Solar Bill Pushback,” Courier-Journal, 2/28/17
- “Don’t Let Utilities Squash Kentucky Solar Entrepreneurs: Here’s a Better Plan,” Lexington Herald-Leader, 2/27/17
- “Anti-Solar Bill Attacks Personal Freedom,” Louisville Courier-Journal op ed, 2/27/17
- “Kentucky Solar Industries Association says it is under siege in Frankfort,” Lane Report, 2/27/17
Other Actions This Week:
Time is now running short on the legislative calendar. Recess days begin on March 9 and then the legislature returns for concurrence on March 14 & 15. So please make your calls soon on the following bills to express your support or opposition. Legislative message line: 1-800-372-7181.
KCC Strong Oppose: HB72 requires a bond for appeals of Circuit Court decisions for zoning cases before the case is transferred to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. The House version has an exemption for churches. The version passed out of the Senate State and Local Committee has an exemption for landfills. The bill, in both versions, is poorly drafted, runs afoul of many Kentucky Constitutional provisions, and puts an unfair burden on those with meritorious claims against poor planning and zoning decisions. Contact members of the Senate State and Local Government committee and Senate Leadership, as well as House Leadership and ask them to oppose this bill.
KCC Strong Oppose: HR234 (J. Gooch) Changes the reference in the public notice of intention to mine coal from “mining site” to “permitted area.” Removes the requirement that all areas overlying underground workings of coal mines be permitted rather than only the areas affected by operations and facilities occurring on the surface. Currently in the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee.
KCC Strong Oppose: SB183 (J. Carpenter) , currently in the House State Government committee. The bill confirms executive order 2016-832, relating to the reorganization of the Public Service Commission.
KCC Support: HJR56 which directs the Kentucky Division of Water to conduct a study identifying privately owned and operated small wastewater treatment plants. Contact the Senate Natural Resources committee.
KCC Strong Support: SB38, which specifies that a person, regardless of state of mind or whether the person believes to be authorized or not, is liable for three times the stumpage value of the timber and three times the cost of any damages to property when he or she takes the timber of another without legal right. Timber theft legislation has been proposed for the past several years. Contact your local representatives and urge them to support this bill.
KCC Strong Support: HB340: Land Conservation Tax Credit. Contact your local representatives and urge them to co-sponsor this bill. Then contact members of the House Appropriations & Revenue committee and express your support.
KCC Strong Support: HB338: A Clean Energy and Economic Development bill. Contact your local representatives and urge them to co-sponsor this bill. Then contact the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee and tell them you support goals for energy efficiency and diversifying energy resources.
KCC Strong Support: SB248: Technologically-enhanced naturally-occurring radioactive material (TENORM) bill. Defines TENORM and allows the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to regulate TENORM. Currently in the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee.