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Kan. utilities seek for change in green energy law

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm •  Published: February 5, 2014
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Utilities in Kansas are lobbying legislators to rewrite a state renewable energy law to provide less of a financial benefit to consumers who install solar panels or windmills.

However, a solar energy advocate said bills introduced in the House and Senate would make Kansas one of the worst states in the country for solar businesses, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1jdvQog ).

Under the state's "net metering" law, consumers who use renewable resources and generate more electricity than they need get full credit for each extra kilowatt hour they send to the electric grid.

Westar Energy, the state's largest electric company, said the practice does not account for utilities' fixed costs, such as power plants and lines.

"When a customer generates some of his or her own power and gets paid the full retail rate of 10 cents, the result is that other customers pay his share of the cost of the entire infrastructure that he continues to use," Mark Schreiber, Westar's executive director of government affairs, told legislators Tuesday. "Rooftop solar systems don't remove a customer's reliance on the utility grid of power plants — they just save fuel."

Mark Moser, of Manhattan, is inventor and owner of the Konza Solar Tracker, which moves solar panels with the sun to make them more efficient. He warned solar businesses would move to other states if "net metering" billing ended.

"I would be left with few options," Moser said, noting that 43 states have net metering. "As the proverbial solar tracking mustard seed, the Konza Solar Tracker will have to find more fertile ground to grow in elsewhere."

Schreiber said the proposed bills would still compensate consumers "at a premium for their excess electricity" but lower the reimbursement to the "utility's avoided cost" rather than the "full retail price." Otherwise, he said Westar might have to raise rates on customers who don't generate their own electricity.

Kansas Interfaith Power and Light, a group of religious leaders against climate change, has made the net-metering bills a top priority, along with measures to roll back renewable standards that are expected to come before lawmakers this year.