Oklahoma Utilities Aim to Tax the Sun

Yesterday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed SB 1456 (PDF) into law, a utility-backed bill that could give Oklahoma utilities carte blanche to slap new fees on rooftop solar customers or small wind generators.

Sun City solar pool with horses on a ranch in Oklahoma

The Week called the move “The World’s Dumbest Idea.” We agree that it’s certainly not the smartest move for Oklahoma or other states. Let’s start with a little perspective: in Oklahoma there are roughly 200 solar customers in the entire state – amounting to a tiny 0.0025% of the state’s energy consumers. Oklahomans have hardly begun to tap their solar potential, and the utility is already using unfounded threats of grid impacts trying to tax the sun and squash solar adoption. This law shows just how unjustified the current spate of utility attacks on rooftop solar truly is.

Utilities should not be allowed to punish customers who choose to invest in local solar power that delivers very real economic, environmental and grid benefits. And most importantly, Oklahoma’s families, schools and businesses have the right to generate their own power from the sun without their utility standing in the way.

We believe the appropriate next step is for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to take a step back and examine whether any new fees are actually justified by evaluating the benefits and costs that distributed resources bring to the grid.

Fortunately Governor Fallin agrees, and she issued a powerful executive order at the bill signing requiring the state’s Corporation Commission, which will implement the bill, to follow some common-sense guidelines:

  • The Commission is required to implement SB 1456 in a manner that is consistent with the state’s First Energy Plan, that stresses that solar, and particularly distributed generation is a resource that should be promoted in Oklahoma
  • The Commission is required to undertake a transparent evaluation of distributed generation resources that includes stakeholder participation from the solar and wind industries.
  • Prior to implementing any fixed charges, the Commission is required to consider other alternative rate structure reforms such as time-of-use rates, or minimum bill charges.

Vote Solar will be engaged in Oklahoma to make sure implementation of this bill follows the sound guidance laid out by Governor Fallin.

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