We Support the Consumer Self Reliance in Electricity Act – HB 2860

Texans are investing more and more in technology to manage their energy consumption, including electric generation and storage resources.   These investments are made at their own expense and on their own property.  However, over the past few years, customers have been told by various governing authorities that they aren’t allowed to install this equipment, and electric utilities have tried to impose on them significantly different electricity charges solely due to their decision to self-generate.  It’s time we put a stop to this form of energy discrimination.  

Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation strongly supports passage of HB 2860.  This legislation protects consumers’ private property rights and their ability to invest in their own energy generation.  The legislation would guarantee the following rights for consumers:

  • A residential or small commercial customer is entitled to generate and/or store their own power; 
  • Customers are entitled to timely approvals of interconnection and any permits required, as well as timely notification from their utility if any utility grid upgrades are required before the customer’s system is interconnected;
  • Privately owned electric utilities in Texas may not impose unique rates or fees to residential and small commercial customers who decide to generate and/or store their own power; and
  • These customers shall be allowed to operate their installed generation and storage at times when the electric grid is not operating.

In 2015, the Legislature enacted reasonable limits on the restrictions Home Owner Associations (HOAs) may impose to restrict the ability of residents to enhance their self-generated energy options.  (84th Legislature SB 1626).  Under HB 2806, a city may not prohibit or restrict these customers from installing generation and storage equipment more than the Legislature already has approved for HOAs.

This legislation also would prohibit HOAs from adopting rules that: 

  • require more than two inspections by the association; 
  • are more onerous than those required of other property improvements;
  • are more onerous than the Public Utility Commission’s interconnection rules. 

Property owners in Texas value their freedom and ability to make their own choices when it comes to energy consumption.  This legislation will empower Texas residents to become better stewards of their own energy while preserving their private property rights.  

To find out who represents you in the Texas Legislature, follow this link: 

https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home.  Contact your elected representatives and let them know that you support HB 2860.

Testimony of Charlie Hemmeline

Executive Director of the Texas Solar Power Association In support of CSHB 2860 State Affairs Committee – Texas House of Representatives

March 25, 2019

Thank you Mr. Chairman and committee members.  My name is Charlie Hemmeline, executive director of the Texas Solar Power Association.  I’m testifying in support of HB 2860.  

The Texas Solar Power Association (TSPA) is the statewide trade association for the solar industry in Texas.  Our membership includes manufacturers, large-scale power plant developers, residential and commercial rooftop integrators, and others across the full solar supply chain. Collectively, our industry employs over 13,000 Texans.  

The cost of solar power has dropped significantly over the past several years, and customers all across Texas are increasingly looking to rooftop systems as a way to improve their self-sufficiency and reduce their utility bills.

What this bill does is take some basic sensible steps to make sure customers can move forward with that investment if they so choose.

It prevents municipal governments from imposing city-wide bans on solar, which is similar in ideology and substance to the Chairman’s bill HB 2439 on municipal regulations.  It entitles a customer to certain disclosures from their solar system provider so it’s clear what they’re getting.  And for customers that do move forward with installation, it ensures utilities can’t punish them with special rates or discriminatory charges

The reason that solar customers should not get special treatment is that they look a whole lot like other customers who have reduced their energy use for one reason or another, for example by installing new efficient air conditioning, or with a smart thermostat that better manages their usage, or by switching from electric heating to gas, or just by sending a kid off to college.  

All of these moves save energy and money, but of course we don’t look to target them with new fees – as we should not.  The grocery store does not charge you more just because you go on a diet.  

To help allay other potential concerns, I wanted to highlight some of the existing solar practices that this bill would not change:

  • Utilities can still require equipment that meets national safety standards and charge appropriate fees for grid interconnection.
  • Customers must still size their systems to not exceed their current usage – in other words, this bill isn’t allowing customers to build small power plants to sell into the grid.
  • Cities can continue to issue permits for installation, to collect fees for those permits, and to conduct inspections to ensure compliance with appropriate building and electrical codes.
  • They can also maintain reasonable aesthetic requirements, such as making solar panels be installed flat on the roof plane and not extend higher than the roofline. 
  • On the market side, Retail Electric Providers can still offer any rate they like for compensating a customer’s solar generation on any given day – the question of solar’s value will remain a market decision between buyers and sellers.

In short, this bill doesn’t give anything to existing or future solar customers.  There are no mandates for installation, no subsidies or other incentives.  These are truly the smallest of steps to get government out of the way so that homeowners and small businesses are able to make their own investments and use their own energy resources. 

Charlie Hemmeline, Executive Director Texas Solar Power Association (512) 593-2015

[email protected]www.txsolarpower.org

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