JEFFERSON CITY - Utilities and green-energy advocates battled before a Missouri legislative committee on measure that would expand the right of property owners to add more of their own power on to utility power lines.
Green-energy advocates argued it would encourage development of alternative sources of energy to expand the right of customers to put onto the electric grid the power that they generated from their own sources like solar panels.
But utilities argued that adding more customer-generated power to their lines would not provide sufficient revenue to cover their costs for construction and maintenance of the electrical distribution system.
Sen. Jason Holsman, D- Kansas City, sponsored the bill before the Senate Commerce Committee to expand how customer-generated power a utility would be required to accept from 10,000 watts to 1,000,000 watts.
Currently, Missouri law requires electric utilities to accept onto their grid power customer- generator systems of 10 kilowatts or less. The solar panels are attached to a public utility power grid, and any surplus of power produced from the customer is transmitted onto the grid, which allows the company to resell the excess energy to other customers.
Through what is termed "net metering," the customer-generated systems' excess energy can offset an equal sum of power supplied by the utility company at another time during the billable season.
Holsman said during the committee's hearing Tuesday, Feb, 9, that his bill would act as a free market solution to promote capital investment by individuals.
According to the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association's findings, "No investors will invest in that small of a solar system. They want close to a megawatt to be able to make the numbers work out because it's building to scale," says Caleb Arthur.
"I think that we need to get government out of the way of allowing those private individuals to make that private investment to produce more power for themselves", Holsman said.. "That's a very Republican thing to do."
The bill would not allow utilities to charge customers who are owners of consumer- generators an additional fee if not also imposed on non customer- generators.
Registered lobbyist, Ewell Lawson for the Missouri Association of Municipal Utilities debated that raising the maximum to 1 megawatt would cause additional burdens on the municipal systems. "That's a huge load that we're going to have to displace and find other avenues to purchase that power", he stated.
Trey Davis from Missouri Energy Development Association, an organization of investor-owned utility companies, argued that if raised, the fixed costs on utilities will not be covered due to the offset they will have to cover consumer- generator owners, causing a greater loss in capital. "There is a better way to do this and more needs to be looked at (just) without just increasing it to 1 megawatt" Davis says.