Week Thirteen: Solar Action Now:
This week will be a big week for the two main issues that have dominated this session for KCC members:  Land conservation funding and solar net metering. While land conservation funding (in HB200 Budget bill) is still being debated in a special budget conference committee, the anti-net-metering bill is getting dangerously close to becoming law. Monday, April 2nd,  is when we anticipate a final push on this bill.
The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee passed HB 227 SCS1 this week with a vote of 6 (Carpenter, Harris, Hornback, Westerfield, Schickel, McDaniel) to 3 (Smith, Jones, Turner and then there were two absent members Embry, Webb). This committee sub essentially abolishes net metering as we know it.

A few lowlights of HB227 as passed by the Senate Natural Resources Committee:

1.     Excludes consideration of the benefits that solar provides to the grid and ratepayers.

2.     HB227 creates an inefficient and costly regulatory process that will burden the PSC and solar industry with the need to perpetually re-litigate net metering in regularly recurring rate cases for all 23 retail electric utilities.

3.     HB 227 radically changes how net metering operates by changing the “monthly netting” of energy production to “instantaneous netting.” Currently, a net metering customer “nets” what they generate and what they use, over a billing period, at the same value. There is no incentive to “overbuild” a solar array since it would create credits that would never be used. HB227 ends monthly “netting” of use and generation, and imposes “instantaneous” netting, so that the PSC could set the value for all electricity fed into the grid, not just the excess over use in a month. This greatly reduces the value of a customer’s solar investment, while the utility saves money during peak periods by selling that solar energy to other customers.

4.     HB227 places hard caps on the solar market by allowing utilities to stop offering net metering to new customers when solar reaches 1% of their annual peak load and by limiting solar array size to 30 kilowatts. For comparison, Indiana allows net metering up to 1,000 kilowatts and Ohio has no size limits!

5.     HB227 may jeopardize grandfathering. New language appears to exclude system transfer, devaluing solar for those who have already installed systems.

6.     HB227 lacks a phase-out. The transition from 12/31/18 to 1/1/19 will be abrupt and stark.  Under HB227 residential net metering effectively dies 12/31/18.

After a long Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee meeting,
the bill passed at around 1:30 PM on Thursday. The full Senate then went into session at around 2 PM. In the meantime that same afternoon, the House snuck in a 291 page pension bill as a sub to a Senate wastewater treatment bill with no notice (this was Senate Bill 151, which had been a KCC Support bill as wastewater legislation). This pension bill was called in committee while the full house was in recess, was passed out of committee and was called on the full house floor. It barely passed the house. The senate then immediately took up the bill. At around 11 PM on Thursday, the wastewater bill with the pension sub passed the full senate.

This means that the full senate did not have time to deal with the net metering bill. And due to schedule changes, the House and Senate recessed for the week. Senator Morgan McGarvey did file a floor amendment asking the PSC to also consider “measurable benefits” of solar to the utility and ratepayers before the close of the session but that would still need to be taken up when the session resumes.

The earliest the senate could consider the bill is Monday, April 2. If it passes the Senate, the House then has to pass the same language. Remember, the house only barely passed HB 227 on a vote of 45-42. On top of that, the house and senate still have to pass a budget and also now deal with the anger of teachers across the state.
We still have a chance of defeating this anti-solar bill. HOWEVER it will require KCC advocates and partners to make one last concerted effort starting NOW. We hate to infringe on your Easter holiday, but we hope you will fill legislator’s email boxes in both the House and Senate, because lawmakers may assume this new bill substitute is a compromise. IT IS NOT.
KCC agents will also be on hand first thing Monday at the Capitol Annex to assist any citizens who attempt to corral their legislators! Call us at 502-209-9659.

Other Bill Movement This Week:

We still do not know if funding has been restored to the Heritage Land Conservation Fund in the budget bill. The bill negotiations are being handled by a free conference committee consisting of senators McDaniel, Thayer, Stivers II, Higdon, Wilson, Seum, Givens, Ridley, Jones II, and Parrett and  Representatives  Osborne, Rudy, Shell, Meade, Bratcher, Carney, Tipton, Stone, Keene, Adkins, See additional information and actions on our special Conserve Kentucky page.
Several bills and resolutions have now also moved on to the Governor’s desk this week to sign or veto. Those include:
  • HCR 7 – Migratory bird depredation permits for black vultures (KCC Oppose)
  • HB114 – TVA in-lieu-of-tax revenue bill (KCC Monitor)
  • HB140 – Asks for annual training stipend paid to all conservation officers be paid from the game and fish fund (KCC Oppose)
  • HB261 – Amends several mining statute provisions (KCC Monitor)
  • HB370 – Streamlines the voluntary environmental remediation program application process for contaminated properties. (KCC Support)
  • SB7 – Establishes a rare disease advisory task force. (KCC Monitor)
  • SB107 – Requires underground facility operators to report to the PSC excavation damage to an underground facility used in the transportation of gas or hazardous liquid (KCC Monitor)
  • SB249 – Restructures and reorganizes Department of Oil and Gas administrative hearings (KCC Support)

If you wish to comment on any of these bills and resolutions, please contact Governor Bevin.