Republican governor blocks net metering tax proposal


Solar supporters in the U.S. have hailed the decision of the Republican governor of Oklahoma to block plans – purportedly financed by nationwide right-wing donors – to tax net metering.

pv magazine on Monday reported claims by left-leaning newspaper the New York Times that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a federal interest group of Republican legislators, was behind an 83-5 vote in the Oklahoma Senate approving senate bill 1456, which included plans to tax homeowners who sell excess solar and wind power back into the grid.

The legislation was subject to approval by governor Mary Fallin and the Republican flew in the face of the alleged intentions of the ALEC group by signing the bill into law with an executive order that stated any charges on distributed generation could only be imposed once all other financing alternatives had been explored.

Tariffs not mandated by senate bill

SB1456, stated Fallin’s order, ‘does not mandate tariffs or other increases for distributed generation customers,’ and the order went on to add it is the duty of the state’s executive to encourage all forms of generation – fossil fuel and renewable – in line with the Oklahoma First Energy Plan.

The unexpected defence of solar and wind power was welcomed by solar lobby group The Alliance of Solar Choice (TASC), which counts Californian solar leasing company Sunrun as one of its founding members.

The surprise outcome even prompted another bastion of America’s left-wing media – the LA Times – to claim in an editorial that the fossil fuel industry’s reliance on support from Republicans was foundering on the rocks of the extreme right Tea Party group’s distaste for any form of tax.

The Times piece quoted a statement from the website of the right wing Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK) pressure group, which states: "Monopoly utilities want to extinguish the independent rooftop solar market in America to protect their socialist control of how we get our electricity."

With solar supporters in the more liberal coastal U.S. states potentially getting into bed with fiercely anti-tax, anti-state Tea Party activists, the debate over renewables in the U.S. appears to be a lot more nuanced than first thought.