Legislative Update: Week of Feb 13th

Legislative Update: Week of Feb 13th
14 February 2017

It is week four of the 2017 Legislative Session. Utah Clean Energy's policy team and our partners have been actively engaged in the legislative session to advance clean energy solutions. Below is a quick update on the latest from the Capitol.

HB 11-State Boards and Commissions Amendments

Thanks to outreach by Utah Clean Energy and others, the House adopted important amendments to House Bill 11 (Rep. Norman Thurston of Provo), which seeks to remove the political balance requirement for many state boards and commissions. The new version of HB 11, offered by Rep. Jeremy Peterson of Ogden, would maintain the political balance requirement for important energy and environmental agencies, including the Public Service Commission, the Air Quality Board, and the Water Quality Board, among others.

Status: The Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee considered making further changes to HB 11 that would have re-inserted the Public Service Commission, the Air Quality Board, and others back into the bill. However, thanks to timely outreach by Utah Clean Energy and others, the Committee chose instead to approve the compromise version of HB 11 as approved by the full House. The bill will next be considered by the full Senate.

HB 23-Renewable Energy Tax Credit Amendments

House Bill 23, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Peterson, would establish a gradual phase out of the tax credit for residential solar systems. Utah Clean Energy and solar industry partners have supported the latest version of the bill, which removes an annual cap on the credit that was in the original version of the bill. We are also seeking an additional change to clarify that the phase out applies to PV systems, not solar thermal systems.

Status: Utah Clean Energy worked with Rep. Peterson and Representative Eric Hutchings of Kearns to include a floor amendment clarifying that the changes to the tax credit apply only to residential PV systems, not solar thermal or passive solar systems. We are glad to report that the full House approved HB 23 with the floor amendment on Monday, Feb. 10.

See Utah Clean Energy’s Renewable Energy Tax Credit page for more information.

HB 29-Energy Efficient Vehicle Tax Credit Amendments

Representative Stephen Handy of Layton is sponsoring House Bill 29, which would renew and improve the tax credit for electric vehicles. The tax credit, which is a critical tool to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front, expired on December 31, 2016. Kevin Emerson of Utah Clean Energy testified in favor of HB 29 before the House Revenue and Taxation Committee this week, along with representatives of Rocky Mountain Power, General Motors, and Leaders for Clean Air.

Status: Representative Handy made changes to HB 29 to address concerns with the cost of the tax credit, including a phase out of the tax credit over 5 years and a provision to review the electric vehicle credit annually. The revised version of HB 29 will be considered again in Committee this week. See Utah Clean Energy’s  fact sheet on HB 29.

HB 297-Renewable Energy Amendments

Representative Stephen Handy is also the sponsor of HB 297, which would amend the laws around “Schedule 32” electric rates for large energy users considering contracting for renewable energy projects. HB 297 would change the law to allow for an out of state project, if the project provides baseload electricity supply (i.e., not an intermittent resource like solar and wind). Additionally, the law would reduce the maximum project size from 300 down to 200 megawatts and require the Public Service Commission to evaluate potential stranded costs when approving large renewable energy projects. Utah Clean Energy is working to change this “stranded cost” language which could undermine future renewable energy projects.

Status: Originally, Utah Clean Energy and other stakeholders were concerned that HB 297 called out “stranded costs” as the sole criteria for the Public Service Commission to review when considering large renewable energy projects under Schedule 32. Representative Handy worked with stakeholders to revise the bill to exclude this concerning provision and a substitute version of the bill passed the House Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee unanimously on Feb.13 and now moves on to be debated by the full House.

SB 154-Solar Access Amendments

Senator Lincoln Fillmore of South Jordan has sponsored SB 154, which would place limits on when a homeowners associations (HOA) could restrict homeowners with detached dwellings from installing solar systems under certain circumstances. HOAs frequently prohibit residents from installing solar systems on their property.

Status: Representatives of the solar industry and the homeowners associations continue to negotiate on SB 154. The bill was held for further consideration by the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, and Energy Committee this week (Feb 13).

Legislative Outreach

Clean Energy Business Coalition members joined Utah Clean Energy staff in hosting a successful “snack break” for Utah legislators this past Wednesday. It was a great opportunity to connect with Representatives and Senators, get behind the scenes during deliberations on the floor, and discuss the benefits of energy efficiency and clean energy here in Utah.

Legislative Tracker                                                      

We're following a number of bills this session. For the full list, see our Legislative Session Policy Tracker here.