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Ky. lawmakers agree to net metering change

A bill to change how Kentucky utility customers are compensated for excess electricity their solar panels produce is on its way to Gov. Matt Bevin, now that state lawmakers have ended an impasse over the proposal.

The House of Representatives on March 14 voted overwhelmingly to do away with changes it made in February to Senate Bill 100 and to back the Senate version of the bill. The House version had included language aimed at garnering support from solar advocates, but the Senate had refused to concur with the changes and sent it back to the House.

House lawmakers sat on the bill for weeks and late on March 14 voted 50-38 to do away with its amendment and voted 55-36 to approve the bill as passed by the Senate.

Net metering customers in Kentucky now get a credit at the full retail rate. The bill lets existing net metering customers, and those that install panels this year, keep their existing rate for 25 years but calls for the state Public Service Commission to determine the rate utilities pay to future net-metering customers.

Among other things, the House amendment would have let solar interests intervene in rate cases in which the net-metering rate would be set and would have required the commission to consider the benefits, as well as the costs, of solar when setting the net-metering rate.

The Kentucky Solar Industries Association asked Bevin to veto the bill, calling its passage a "huge blow to the many people employed by small, locally owned businesses in the solar industry," and to those that want solar to provide their energy, according to a statement posted on the group's Facebook page after the vote.

Kentucky lawmakers in the last two years have unsuccessfully tried to make changes to net metering. Those in favor of net metering reform, which include utilities such as PPL Corp. subsidiaries Louisville Gas and Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities Co., have argued that customers with solar panels need to pay their fair share of costs to maintain the grid.

The utilities on March 15 said the bill will allow state regulators to evaluate the costs and benefits of the excess power generated by private solar net-metering customers.

"It also promotes the growth of renewable energy while ensuring the costs are fair and reasonable for all customers," the utilities said.

A representative for Bevin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on March 15 about whether the governor plans to sign the bill.