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Missouri bill could change course of solar industry

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Those in the solar industry in the metro are keeping a close eye on legislation moving in Missouri. House Bill 340 made its way onto the House floor pm Wednesday. and is ready now for a final vote soon. If it passes, utility companies could charge solar customers an extra fee -- which customers say defeats the purpose of saving money by making their own electricity.

Lawmakers who support HB 340 say it’s about making it fair for everyone who is using the grid.

“This is an investment not only in my home but in my future and for future generations,” Gwyneth Jones said.

She considers her solar panel system the icing on the top of her piece of cake home, designed just the way she wants it.

“I’m the hippy chick on the block. I’m doing all the weird gardening,” she laughed.

She had solar installed late last year. She said HB 340 could wipe out the advances the country has made to work toward renewable energy and resources.

“It just makes no sense to be going backward,” Jones said.

Legislators who support the bill say the goal is to ensure fairness across the board for ‘all’ ratepayers – solar and non-solar users. They also dispute claims that the solar industry will see a drop in jobs.

In a written statement from the office of Rep. Fitzwater who authored the bill, they said, “We do not believe a multi-million dollar industry that is seeing rapid growth will result in a loss of jobs because we are making the cost of infrastructure fair.”

Solar company RisingSun EPC owner Keith Murphy says the bill will penalize homeowners who’ve opted to go solar.

“The utility companies have interests that they’re trying to protect on their side as well,” Murphy said.

He plans to keep an eye on the bill as it moves through the capitol. Murphy said, “It will directly affect our business model and other solar companies here in the state.”

Murphy also remains hopeful despite the bill. He said those who go solar will still save money and help the environment.

“Whatever small monthly fee that the utility does decide to charge homeowners is going to pale in comparison to any type of utility rate increases that the homeowner would have to pay if they don’t go solar.”

Jones says she'll continue to track her renewable energy and hope to inspire others to join the industry despite what's happening in Jefferson City. She said she looks forward to seeing that she’s not leaving a footprint.

Next, HB 340 goes before the House for a final vote. If it passes, it’ll move to the Senate.

Click here to read the bill.

Click here to track HB 340 as it makes its way through the legislative process.

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