The Missouri House of Representatives voted yesterday to allow utilities to treat solar customers as separate-class citizens, subject to the often arbitrary whims of utilities, who will charge solar customers to “recover” what they claim are grid maintenance costs, passing House Bill (HB) 340 by a vote of 102-51.
The bill now moves on to the Senate for consideration. The bill has undergone the first reading in the Senate, but no vote has been scheduled on the bill as yet.
In passing the bill, Missouri’s legislators have endorsed the utility-concocted zombie lie that solar customers cause other ratepayers to pay more than their fair share of grid upkeep because they often produce and consume electricity on their own property.
Each time utilities use this fake argument to alienate non-solar ratepayers from solar customers, solar advocates remind people that more than 16 studies, including several national studies, destroy the utilities’ argument by proving otherwise.
In fact, several state-level studies (including Maine, Vermont, Nevada and New York, to name but four) have shown solar customers not only don’t shift costs to non-solar customers, but add such benefits to the grid that they save even non-solar customers money.
And a 2015 Missouri Energy Initiative study showed the “Show Me” state that solar customers provide a net-benefit – even to non-solar customers. The freedom utilities have now to treat solar consumers as a separate rate class has solar advocates worried about the long-term effects it could have on the rooftop solar industry in the state. Extra fees could reduce the incentive for residents to install solar because they would eliminate some of the expected savings and lengthen the payback time on systems.
In essence, advocates worry, the provisions of HB 340 could devastate the burgeoning solar industry. The Missouri solar industry currently employs 2,380 people, including 1,481 in installation, according to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census. And that’s with weak state policies supporting it – its current renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is only 15% , and its solar carve-out is a miniscule 0.3%.
Now that HB 340 has passed the House and is likely to pass the Senate, prospects for passing HB 439 – named the Missouri Energy Freedom Act – are much more difficult to gauge. HB 439, which has failed to pass in various forms in each of the past three years, would finally allow power-purchase agreements in the state.
The bill would give large electricity consumers like Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Unilever, General Mills, Target, General Motors and Nestle the right to purchase renewable energy from someone other than their state-assigned utility, all of whom have sent letters to legislators asking them to vote in favor of HB 439.