Missouri bill removes regulatory oversight while mandating solar

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Last Wednesday, the Missouri House passed a bill to remove discretion of regulatory oversight from the Missouri Public Service Commission (MO PSC), while adding mandates for power companies to invest in utility-owned solar. SB 465 passed the Senate in February, and now goes to Governor Eric Greitens (R) for approval.

The bill removes some of the oversight of MO PSC in favor of giving utilities power to adjust customer rates. These mechanisms allow companies to bypass the existing procedural processes, so long as these increases fall under the bill’s preset rate-creation guidelines. This is a significant move, as MO PSC is the only government body that stands between consumers – including those who install and own PV systems – and the electric utility monopolies.

Simultaneously, the bill requires power companies in invest in utility-owned solar facilities. Companies over 1 million Missouri customers are required to invest $14 million, companies between 1 million and 200,000 customers must invest $4 million and companies with under 200,000 customers to invest $3.5 million. Furthermore, these companies are also required to make solar rebates available to customers with systems up to 25 kW for residential customers and up to 150 kW for nonresidential customers.

Opponents of the bill have raised concerns that it will allow for unchecked rate increases on consumers across the board. In an op-ed for the Kansas City Star, Missouri Senator Doug Libla (R) wrote:

“SB564 removes discretion from the Missouri Public Service Commission to make important decisions about utility rates. The commission is the only consumer protection against monopolies. This bill adopts rate-making mechanisms that would greatly benefit utilities with even higher profits. All classes of customers would experience much higher electric rates.”

Another issue of concern is the impact that any trend towards elimination of regulatory oversight could have on rates and therefore the economics of customer-cited solar, in Missouri or nationally. While Missouri is no national solar powerhouse – it ranked 39th in GTM Research and SEIA’s year-end 2017 Solar Market Insight Report – this bill could set a precedent in terms of elimination of regulation. Whether or not other states will follow suit remains to be seen.

It’s worth noting that this is an odd bill overall. The removal of regulatory oversight and the requirement of power companies to invest in utility-owned solar facilities would each be unusual in their own right, much less in the same bill.