If ALEC gets their way, laws like the one passed in Oklahoma that penalizes those who install their own solar panels will become common place
Last week when I wrote about the American Legislative Exchange Council, I mentioned how ALEC seeks to weaken state clean energy regulations and penalize energy independent homeowners who install their own solar panels.
According to ALEC, people who decide to install solar panels or small wind turbines on their home are free-riders. A term used often by conservatives to describe someone on welfare or some kind of social assistance.
It didn’t take long for legislators to start bringing these “model bills” back to their state legislatures. In Oklahoma, a new bill passed the state legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. The law requires residents who harvest their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property to be charged an additional fee.
It appears once again that the Republican love affair with the free market is highly dependent on the market in question. Not a surprise given that both the Republican Party and the American Legislative Exchange Council is heavily funded by the Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel industry.
The soon to be Oklahoma law passed the state House 83-5 without a debate and took everyone by surprise. No one knew anything about it as it was attached to another bill. When it’s signed into law, people who install their own panels or turbines will have to pay a monthly fee, not unlike paying the electric bill. The surcharge amount has not yet been determined.
In the age of climate change, clean energy and energy independence are clearly being frowned upon. I can only equate a bill like this to charging someone who decides to grow their own food in a garden.
Naturally, green energy companies in Oklahoma, renewable energy advocates and environmental groups are furious. Oklahoma’s major utilities meanwhile couldn’t be happier.
“We’re not anti-solar or anti-wind or trying to slow this down, we’re just trying to keep it fair. We’ve been studying this trend. We know it’s coming, and we want to get ahead of it.” – Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman Kathleen O’Shea
What Kathleen isn’t telling us is that these distributed energy sources provide value to utility companies. Energy independent homeowners generate solar energy during peak hours. A time when the utility companies need to provide electricity to more people at a higher cost to the company. Solar panels feed excess energy back to the grid, helping to alleviate the pressure during peak demand.
Mike Bergey, president & CEO of Bergey Windpower in Norman Oklahoma summed up the wind aspect best: “It is unfortunate that some utilities that enthusiastically support wind power for their own use are promoting a regressive policy that will make it harder for their customers to use wind power on their own. Oklahoma offers tax credits for large wind turbines which are built elsewhere, but wants to penalize small wind which we manufacture here in the state? That makes no sense to me.”
Along with trying to levy fees on those who try and provide their own energy, ALEC is attacking a policy known as net metering. Net metering is the amount customers should be compensated for the excess power they produce by their solar panels that gets sold back to the grid.
Net metering policies have been implemented in countries throughout the developed world including 43 US states (and D.C.). The compensation varies by country and state. Some actually pay energy independent homeowners for the excess energy they sell back, others prefer to offer them credit for the days when they need more energy than they produce.
Either way, the consumer wins and ALEC won’t stand for it. The fighting has begun in several states to repeal net metering policies, but the regressive policy has so far failed in Colorado, Kansas and Vermont.
The bill that passed in Oklahoma is just the beginning. You can expect it to spring up in Republican controlled states across the country. This type of legislation is a slap in the face to green energy, climate change and even those free-market principals Republicans hold so dear.
Free-market principles that earned Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award from none other than American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC’s highest honor, “given annually to a current or former public official who has established an exemplary record of advancing the fundamental Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty as a nationally recognized leader”
During her acceptance speech she remarked: “unfortunately, leaders in Washington have strayed from Jefferson’s vision. Today, we have too much government. We have too much regulation. We have too many taxes. We are not frugal.”
After Mary Fallin signs this bill that penalizes energy independent homeowners for pursuing energy independence, the only word applicable to her award and speech will be “bullshit.”