Net metering bill gets go-ahead by House panel

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Net metering—which gives retail credit for surplus solar or other renewable energy fed in to the electrical grid—would see changes under a bill approved by the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee Thursday.

Under House Bill 227, sponsored by House Natural Resources and Energy Chair Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, net metering credit for surplus solar, wind or other renewable energy would have to be equal to the approved rate that retail electric suppliers pay for electricity generation by facilities with a rated capacity of no more to 100 kilowatts, effectively reducing compensation for net metering customers. Solar panels and other private electricity generators typically have a rated capacity of no more than 30 kilowatts.

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An exemption would be carved out in the bill for current net metering customers, allowing them to keep their current contract for up to 25 years. The exemption would not apply, however, to future owners or lessees of the property where the net metering is taking place.

Lawmakers began looking more closely at the state’s net metering program last year in the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. Testifying on the issue in November was the Consumer Energy Alliance, or CEA, whose representatives told lawmakers that solar credits for net metering customers are nearly three times the competitive market rate, putting utility customers at a disadvantage.

Rep. Gooch said in a floor speech on the House floor on Wednesday that his legislation targets what he called “tax subsidies” for more affluent energy customers.

“I will never stand for the poor people who are less fortunate having to subsidize someone who has a little bit higher station in life,” he told his colleagues.

The committee’s vote today reflected differing views on the subject, with 14 voting for the bill, four voting against it, three passing on their vote, and one member abstaining. Of the 14 voting for the bill, some said they would like to see the bill amended on the House floor.

Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, voted for the bill in committee but said he will be filing amendments to the bill on the floor.

“I’m going to be very forthright, that if we don’t adopt an amendment, I will be a “no” vote on the floor,” he told the committee.

Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, voted against the bill after speaking against its potential effect on the state’s energy sector.

“We’re bringing a sledgehammer to this diversifying economy at a time, too, when this state is proud of having an economy based on energy,” said Flood.

HB 227 now goes to the full House for consideration by all members.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.