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Kentucky’s Expanding Solar Sector Fears Bill Could Stall Industry

Posted: 6:10 PM, Mar 20, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-20 18:10:28-04

BOYLE COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — New reports show that Kentucky’s solar industry has a lot of potential to expand, but some solar businesses worry progress is uncertain because of a new bill passed in Frankfort this month.

“We’ve seen an increase this past year — about 40 to 50 percent from years past — of customers inquiring about solar and solar installations both,” said John Cotten, the general manager of Wilderness Trace Solar.

Crews at the Danville company are busier than ever, whether they’re installing solar panels or answering questions about technology.

“I can’t tell you the number of people we talk to on a routine basis that say, ‘I can’t afford it right now but if I could, I’d do it,'” said Cotten.

Kentucky’s solar industry is growing because of all of the interest. The latest National Solar Jobs Census shows 117 new jobs were created last year. That brings the total statewide number of solar jobs to more than 1,400.

Companies like Wilderness Trace Solar are looking to hire more, but they’re holding off because of Senate Bill 100.

SB 100 is a bill that the governor could make into law any day now, and Cotten says it brings uncertainty to the solar industry.

“We’re in a situation right now where I’d love to bring on a couple more people but I’m going to hold off till we know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to hire somebody then turn around in six months and let them go because the rules are going to change on what we can do with installations and how the systems are metered,” said Cotten.

The summary of the original version of SB 100 says that it would, “Amend KRS 278.465 to increase the maximum capacity for an eligible electric generating facility to 45 kilowatts and to redefine “net metering”; amend KRS 278.466 to require the Public Service Commission to set the compensation rate for eligible customer-generators according to the ratemaking process in KRS Chapter 278; specify that the ratemaking process to set the amount of compensation for electricity produced by eligible customer-generators be initiated by a retail electric supplier or generation and transmission cooperative on behalf of one or more retail electric suppliers; prohibit eligible customer-generators who close their net metering accounts from receiving any cash refund for accumulated excess generation credits; require the net metering tariff provisions for eligible customer-generators in place when they started taking net metering service to remain in effect for 25-years for eligible generating facilities, including the one-to-one kilowatt-hour denominated credit provided for electricity fed into the grid; specify that eligible customer-generators shall be subject to all changes in energy rates, rate structures, and monthly charges as nonparticipating customers during that 25 year period; specify that eligible customer-generator installations are transferable to other persons at the same premises; amend KRS 278.467 to conform; EFFECTIVE January 1, 2020.”