Solar energy triumphs in legal battle
May 08, 2015
After a long legal battle, a Missouri Supreme Court decision has been finalized, resulting in Empire District Electric Company (Empire) filing a tariff, agreeing to pay solar rebates to its customers. In a 5-2 decision released in February by the Missouri Supreme Court, Renew Missouri and Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) won their case against the utility. The ruling determined that Empire was not exempt from paying rebates, as it had claimed. The state solar rebate was created as part of a ballot initiative – Proposition C - that was passed in 2008.

Said Rick Hunter, president of the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association (MOSEIA) Board, “This is a major win for Missouri; a win for job creation, and a win for clean energy in our state.”

Empire customers that installed qualifying solar systems during the court battle will receive rebates retroactively, and new solar projects will receive $1.50/watt if installed before June 30, 2015. After that date the rebate amount is reduced, annually, based on a schedule.

Where the Missouri solar industry stands

At its peak in 2014, Missouri was ranked #6 among all states for solar installations. But the loss of the solar rebate in 2013 in the areas served by the other two investor owned utilities (Ameren Missouri and Kansas City Power & Light), put a damper on this growth. The rebate loss was unexpected, since it was the result of a determination being made by utilities and the Public Service Commission that a total cap on spending for rebates had been hit, even though the methodology for calculating that cap has never been agreed upon.

SOLAR LLC, a group of utility customers that believes they were wrongly denied rebates is advancing a lawsuit that would seek to restore the rebate. This process is expected to culminate in another Supreme Court ruling by the end of the year. On a national basis, The group believes that Solar is the fastest growing industry, with 30-50% growth annually with growth is fueled by the fact that solar is now one of the lowest cost sources of new energy production. Many homeowners and commercial property owners are making investments in producing their own power, in an effort to save money on utility bills and contribute to the move to clean energy. The resulting trend towards increasing decentralization of power generation is forcing a transformation of the energy industry and the power grid.

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