Monday, April 28, 2014

Taxing Solar in Oklahoma

Last week the Governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, signed SB 1456, which “sets up a mechanism for electric utilities to levy a tariff on customers with distributed generation- that is, electricity from on-site wind or solar generation” (Krehbeil).  The purpose of the bill is to make sure that customers with distributed generation aren’t subsidized by customers of the same utility that do not have solar or wind power. The utility companies will have to pay customers with distributed generation for excess power entering the grid, but the industry argues that these customers should be charged for this because it doesn’t take in account of the cost of up keeping of the grid: costs that will get passed onto the customers of that utility.  This bill will not apply to the 350 utility customers that already have alternative energy generation on site.
There is also controversy with the passing of a bill like this one.  “MSNBC and others have dubbed the possible tariff a 'sun tax' and a crude attack on alternative energy” (Krehbeil).  “Monopoly utilities want to extinguish the independent rooftop solar market in America to protect their socialist control of how we get our electricity” according to the website of Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed (Voorhees).  There are multiple claims such as the ones above that are bashing the major electricity companies for trying to stop alternative energy.
I think this bill may be a little much, but I also understand why a bill like this was passed.  With a large amount of Oklahoma's economy based on the oil and natural gas markets, as well as being mostly energy independent, there is always some fear of alternate energy markets taking money from the oil and natural gas markets.  With this bill it helps keep the money in the utility industry and helps Oklahoma to become closer to having its own power grid.  I myself have intentions of actually moving to Oklahoma after I graduate, and I really don’t view this much different than the “rain tax” we have here in Maryland; the “rain tax” wouldn’t prevent me from adding a paved driveway to my home or business.  I think the idea of putting solar panels on one’s house or business is a beneficial investment; I don’t think this tariff imposed on private wind or solar energy generation would stop me from putting solar panels on my house if I ever choose to do so.
--Eric Caswell

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