Oklahoma Goes After Solar Users

The retrograde move here to charge people who send power back to the electrical grid through rooftop solar panels and small wind turbines is part of a coordinated national conservative effort against green energy.

On Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Senate Bill 1456, which allows the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to set a fixed charge for customers who use their own generated electricity but also are connected to the electrical grid and send power back into the system.

Proponents of the bill say the charge is needed to recover the costs associated with receiving the excess power in the process known as net metering, but it still represents a giant step backward in developing renewable and cleaner energy sources and it’s clearly a response to a conservative pushback against green energy.

The bill was widely criticized. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, for example, recently mocked Oklahoma for several minutes on her show over the bill. (See the above video.) Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, have also protested the bill and others like it across the country.

A recent story in The Lost Angeles Times outlined the conservative push against solar power:

The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation's largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.

The story also mentions that the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a conservative group, has developed model legislation attacking green energy efforts. Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group supported by Charles and David Koch, has also been part of the overall effort, according to the story.

The bottom line is that utility companies need to change their business model rather than turn back the clock on advances in solar power. If the new charges are excessive, then few people will use solar panels on their homes and businesses, and this will not only allow power companies to retain their monopolies but also could stop or slow renewable energy development. The new law also protects the interests of the fossil fuel industry, especially coal producers. That seems to be the point of the conservative effort.

The Oklahoma bill passed on an 83 to 5 vote in the House and a 41 to 0 vote in the Senate. The overwhelming support for the measure shows the influence of national conservative movements on the Republican-dominated legislature and the influence of the traditional and powerful energy lobby here.

It’s a huge step backwards for Oklahoma.