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Kentucky Senate panel sends net metering bill to floor vote

A bill to change Kentucky's net metering policy took another step toward final approval after a state Senate panel backed the measure.

The Kentucky Legislature's Senate Natural Resource and Energy Committee on March 29 advanced House Bill 227, but with changes to the version that narrowly passed the House of Representatives in mid-March.

The committee bill still leaves it up to the state Public Service Commission to determine the compensation rate for energy supplied to the grid by customers with rooftop solar panels, but specifies that the process to set that amount is to be initiated by a utility or cooperative in a rate case. The bill also no longer contains language allowing cash payments for excess generation, returning to a credit for excess generation.

Existing net metering customers can keep their current rates for 25 years under the committee version of the bill, but that clock starts on the date the commission sets the initial net metering compensation rate change, instead of Jan. 1, 2019, as called for in the House bill. The bill still allows grandfathering of property transfers, so those that buy or inherit property can take advantage of current net metering rates.

Committee Chairman Jared Carpenter said the changes are intended to prevent stifling Kentucky's solar industry while ensuring customers without solar panels do not pay more for electricity.

But solar business representatives disagreed.

At the March 29 committee meeting, Jamie Clark, president of Synergy Home, a Lexington, Ky.-based heating, cooling and solar company, asked the panel to table the bill for now. Even with revisions, Clark said the bill primarily favors investor-owned utilities.

Rather than move ahead with the current bill, Clark called for lawmakers to convene stakeholder meetings with the solar industry, utilities, cooperatives and other interested parties to create a bill for consideration in the next legislative session.

Matt Partymiller, who operates Lexington-based rooftop solar installer Solar Energy Solutions and serves as president of the Kentucky Solar Industry Association, said he is not opposed to the PSC determining net metering rates, but does not think the bill achieves that aim.

The bill has been the subject of debate since its introduction in January. Solar advocates have expressed concern that the bill will harm their small but growing industry. Utilities Kentucky Power Co., Kentucky Utilities Co. and Louisville Gas and Electric Co. have argued that current net metering policy benefits those who can afford solar panels at the expense of everyone else.

The Senate is scheduled to meet April 2.

Kentucky Power is a subsidiary of American Electric Power Co. Inc. Kentucky Utilities and LG&E are subsidiaries of PPL Corp.