Message to Missouri Legislature: Lift Restrictions on Solar

Missouri has an excellent solar resource on par with states such as Florida. In fact the biggest obstacle to solar energy in Missouri is not a lack of sunshine but regulatory restrictions set by state law . Like many states, Missouri does not allow private businesses to produce and sell electricity. The same goes for homeowners. Missourians do not have a choice when it comes to where they purchase electricity. Instead there is one and only one electric utility assigned to each region of the state and effectively the market consists of monopolies who do not have any competition. Now that there is a true alternative in the form of wind and solar energy this system of protected monopolies no longer serves the best interest of the end use consumers of electricity. Missouri needs to lift restrictions on solar to modernize the market for electricity.

In fact at the moment all that a private property owner is allowed to do, short of disconnecting from the electric grid, is to offset a portion of the energy consumed on the property. If a private property owner were to own two properties, both metered and served by the same utility, one shaded and the other optimal for solar it is not possible to install solar on the optimal plot and apply credits to the other meter. This restriction could easily be lifted and where allowed is known as "virtual" net metering.

Utilities in Missouri, especially the rural electric cooperatives are already leveraging their power as monopolies to manipulate rates in their favor. By increasing customer charges or demand charges and keeping energy rates fixed they effectively raise their customers bill without increasing the payback incentive to fuel switch to net metered distributed solar. As a net metered solar customer I am credited at $0.08/kWh while my utility offers electricity from the solar array that they built and own and operate to utility customers for a charge of $0.16/kWh. With no one else allowed into the market to compete the utility can charge double what it is required to create a homeowner with solar. For this reason, I along with the board of Show Me Solar call upon the state of Missouri to revise statutes to allow for true privately owned Community Solar projects to provide a fair market to harness the economy of scale afforded by larger fields of solar PV. We also called upon the state government to pass legislation preventing Missouri utilities from artificial suppressing the method in which they charge for electricity by restructuring delivery of service charges from energy charges and regulating fair market values for delivery of service charges.

Another artificial restriction is the cap on solar installations at 100,000 Watts or 100 kW. More typical in states that have favorable regulatory markets for solar, property owners are allowed to build and interconnect solar arrays with capacity ratings of one million watts or 1 mega-watt = 1MW. Worse yet, if the solar system over produces in a monthly billing period the excess production receives a lower wholesale credit instead of full retail credit. This penalizes a homeowner for a solar system that over produces in the summer when the solar resource is double the winter as Missouri does not mandate the utilities to roll over summer credits at retail rates into the winter months. The better policy in this case is known as "annual true-up" which is like roll over credits for solar from one month's bill to the next.

Finally Missouri needs to lift the 1% per year cap on adding solar to the grid and the 5% overall cap. Instead Missouri needs to plan now for a future ten years from now where upwards of 40% of the state's electricity is solar energy.

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