by Benjamin Peters, Missouri Times
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As the Missouri legislature returns to Jefferson City this week for a special session involving utility rates, opponents of another bill proposing to make changes to how Missouri’s law deals with net metering are still celebrating a victory.
The General Assembly adjourned a little over a week ago without passing Rep. Travis Fitzwater’s HB 340, which would have allowed utility companies to begin charging customers with solar panels an additional monthly fee.
The bill would allow energy suppliers to charge 75 percent of monthly fixed availability charges for “consumer-generators,” such as people with solar panels affixed to their roofs. Consumers who use “net metering,” a common-sense policy that allows homeowners and businesses to produce their own electric power, are credited for the power that they don’t use and send back onto the grid. In Missouri, homeowners and businesses receive a 1-for-1 bill credit for each kWh they put back onto the grid.
Supporters of the bill say it’s about creating fairness between solar and non-solar users. Critics of the bill, however, called it an onerous new tax on solar energy users, saying it would have resulted in the loss of 2,000 solar jobs, $200 million in solar company revenue, $50 million in sales tax revenue, and $15 million in payroll taxes.
The bill passed the House but was never taken up by the Senate.
“This job-killing energy tax would have devastated one of Missouri’s most innovative and fastest growing industries while making energy more expensive for thousands of solar energy users across the state,” said Zachary Wyatt-Gomez, Executive Director of Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association (MOSEIA). “We thank the members of the Missouri Senate for doing the right thing and putting the brakes on this anti-business and anti-consumer bill.”
“Missourians deserve clean, reliable, affordable energy — not backdoor tax hikes to line the pockets of big utility companies,” PJ Wilson, Executive Director of Renew Missouri, said. “The failure of this bill is a victory for families, businesses and our entire economy, and we thank the lawmakers who opposed it. These lawmakers listened to their constituents and the thousands of Missourians who contacted their representatives in opposition to this bill. Moving forward, rather than gouging renewable energy users with new taxes and fees, state leaders should help families and businesses by working to make solar energy even more affordable and accessible.”
But even though the bill failed to pass this year, the fact that it passed the House with a vote of 102-51 stands to reason that the legislation will most likely be brought forward again in the next legislative session, meaning both sides have a year to find compromises or strategize.