Quantcast
Popular

New Bill Could Kill Indiana's Rooftop Solar Sector

Lawmakers in Indiana have introduced a new measure that could wipe out the state's net metering system within a decade and squash the state's burgeoning solar energy sector.

For the past 12 years, Indiana's net metering policy has credited homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar systems for the excess power their panels generate and send to the grid. However, Senate Bill 309 (SB309), authored by Republican State Senator Brandt Hershman, aims to eliminate this scheme by 2027 and replace it with a controversial "sell all, buy all" system.

Under this proposed bill, rooftop solar owners would be forced to sell their electricity to the utility at a lower rate and buy it back at a higher rate. According to PV-Tech, solar consumers would have to sell their energy to the utility at wholesale rate of around US$0.03/kWh and then buy it back at the higher retail rate of around US$0.11/kWh. Apparently, the balance goes towards the utility's expenses for maintaining the grid.

"Mandatory 'buy-all/sell-all' approaches greatly infringe on customers' energy independence and this bill should be cause for great alarm for consumers in the state of Indiana," Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), told EcoWatch.

"Rooftop solar power that is exported from customers' homes or businesses to the grid is quickly absorbed by neighboring homes and businesses. Compensating that local power at average wholesale prices significantly undervalues the benefits of producing that power—such as avoiding the need to build new power lines—and ignores the fact that solar power is produced during daytime peak periods when wholesale energy prices are higher," Gallagher added. "Whether it's installing energy efficiency measures or consuming on-site generation, customers should always receive the full retail price value for behind-the-meter choices that reduce grid-supplied energy consumption, resulting in benefits for the entire community."

Laura Arnold, president of the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance, explained to Midwest Energy News, that the measure is akin to confiscating private property.

"It's like saying, 'Yeah, you can have your solar panels but you really don't own them because you can't decide what to do with the electricity you're producing yourself,'" Arnold said.

While the bill aims to stop net metering in 10 years, as the Indiana Business Journal noted, the state could put an end to it even earlier:

Language in the measure stipulates that net metering would end no later than July 2027—which supporters say gives the solar industry plenty of time to adjust.

But it could happen sooner. According to current rules, a utility such as Indianapolis Power & Light Co. doesn't have to offer net metering to customers once it reaches a cap of providing net metering equal to 1 percent of its summer peak generation.

PV-Tech says the bill "has not yet been seen in other states and is a unique approach from the Indianan legislators."

Opponents of the bill say it would discourage homeowners and businesses from investing in solar systems, which can be costly to install.

"One of the fundamental reasons people put solar panels on their roofs is to reduce consumption from the grid—to be self-reliant, sustainable, efficient," Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition, told Indiana Business Journal. "That should be encouraged to the highest degree."

Additionally, the bill could have ramifications for Indiana's nascent solar sector. More than 72 solar companies operate in the state and employs about 1,567 people.

Incidentally, renewable energy is poised for massive growth in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced in a report that U.S. solar employs more workers than any other energy industry, including coal, oil and natural gas combined.

"SB 309's anti-American limitations on how consumers can use their own rooftops could significantly undermine the state's clean energy progress and, in turn, the well-paying jobs that solar now provides the state of Indiana," Gallagher said.

But critics of net metering contend that solar customers are not paying their fair share for use of the grid.

"Net metering creates a situation where customers with solar panels are being paid by customers without solar panels," Mark Maassel, president of the Indiana Energy Association, told Indiana Business Journal. "That's just not fair."

The legislation is set for a hearing before the Senate Utilities Committee on Feb. 2.

Indiana's net metering system actually survived an attack two years ago. In 2015, state representative Eric Koch (no relation to the Charles and David Koch) introduced a bill that would have reduced net metering payments and added fees to solar customers. That bill failed to advance.

So-called " solar wars" are waging in several states such as Nevada, Florida and Arizona. Reports have emerged of billionaire oil barons Charles and David Koch and their political allies trying to kill net metering as they see growth in renewable energy as a threat to their businesses.

Hershman, the state senator who introduced the bill, has not commented to media about the measure.

An April 2016 report from the Center for Biological Diversity determined that Indiana was among the top 10 sunniest states in the country actively blocking rooftop solar development through overtly lacking and destructive policy landscapes.

Indiana, along with Alabama, Florida, Georgia,, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, account for more than 35 percent of the total rooftop-solar technical potential in the contiguous U.S., but only 6 percent of total installed capacity.

"Thanks to weak and nonexistent policies, the distributed-solar markets in these states have never been given a chance to shine," said Greer Ryan, sustainability research associate with the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the report. "There's room for improvement in solar policies across all 50 states, but it's especially shameful to see the sunniest states fail to lead the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Business
zodebala / iStock

Investigators Find Slave Labor on Starbucks-Certified Brazil Coffee Plantation

By Daniela Penha and Roberto Cataldo, Translator

This story was produced via a co-publishing partnership between Mongabay and Repórter Brasil and can be read in Portuguese here.

At first sight, the Córrego das Almas farm in Piumhi, in rural Minas Gerais state, seems to be a model property. "No slave or forced labor is allowed," reads one of several signs that display international certifications—including one linked to the U.S. based company Starbucks corporation.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Oil and gas companies flare natural gas that cannot be processed or sold. Varodrig / Wikimedia Commons

Trump Lets Fracking Companies Release More Climate-Warming Methane

As expected, the U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday released a final rule that reverses Obama-era restrictions on methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

President Obama's 2016 methane waste rule, which never went into effect, required fossil fuel companies on tribal and public lands to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that's about 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It called on drilling operators to capture leaking and vented methane and to update their leak-detection equipment.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Smoke from the Carr Fire in northern California, July 2018. Eric Coulter, Bureau of Land Management / Public Domain

U.S. Air Pollution Is 'Completely Outrageous'

By Juanita Constible

How do you think the U.S. stacks up against other countries for protecting its citizens from the health threats of air pollution?

That's the question Christiana Figueres, one of the world's leading climate warriors, posed at last week's Global Climate and Health Forum, an official side event of the Global Climate Action Summit. The answer, said Ms. Figueres, is "completely outrageous."

Keep reading... Show less
Politics

Top EPA Watchdog Since 2010 Announces Departure

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) internal watchdog organization announced plans to leave for a job outside the federal government Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

Arthur A. Elkins Jr., who has held the position of Inspector General since he was appointed by former president Barack Obama in 2010, will spend his last day at the agency Oct. 12, The Hill reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
A man outside his flooded home in Lokoja in the Kogi state of Nigeria following heavy rains there. SODIQ ADELAKUN / AFP / Getty Images

100 Dead in Nigeria Following Severe Flooding

Nigeria declared a national disaster in four states Monday in response to deadly flooding that National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesperson Sani Datti partly attributes to climate change, CNN reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
L: Michael Coghlan / Flickr R: Coloured chest X-ray of a male patient showing evidence of a mesothelioma lung cancer, which is usually associated with exposure to asbestos. Zephyr / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Report: 140 House Members Vote Against Chemical Safeguards Every Time

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund, the political arm of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), released a first-ever report that scores how each member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on chemical policy and safety.

The scorecard shows that 140 House members voted against chemical safeguards every time, while 149 members consistently voted for chemical safety protections.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
grobery / CC BY SA 2.0 (Flickr)

What’s for Dinner? A Preview of the People, Process and Politics Updating Federal Dietary Guidelines

By Sarah Reinhardt

Months behind schedule, two federal departments have officially kicked off the process for writing the 2020-2025 iteration of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Updated and reissued every five years, these guidelines are the nation's most comprehensive and authoritative set of nutrition recommendations. And although the process is meant to be science-based and support population health—and has historically done so, with some notable exceptions—there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Trump administration is preparing to pitch a few curveballs.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Vladimirovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Many Hazards of Toxic Algae Outbreaks

By Sarah Graddy and Robert Coleman

This summer, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is tracking outbreaks of potentially toxic algae across the U.S. We have been startled to find that these outbreaks are erupting everywhere: from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!